COVID-19 and North Korea Update #2

March 3, 2020

This is the second in a series of updates on what is known about the impact of the COVID19 epidemic in North Korea.

The following are updated points regarding what is known about the Coronavirus (COVID19) situation and North Korea. Remember that some of the media reports you view may be inaccurate or incomplete.

Do North Korea's borders remain closed?

Yes, with one exception. The bridge linking Dandong, China and Sinuiju, North Korea is formally the only entry point into the country for supplies. North Korean officials insist that neither planes nor ships may arrive. There is concern that a major backlog of containers, some of which include medical and humanitarian supplies, are unable to be transferred in a timely manner into North Korea.

However, a North Korean Air Koryo flight from Pyongyang to Vladivostok which would allow for some international staff and foreign diplomats to exit the country, is scheduled to occur later this week. The return flight from Vladivostok may reportedly include some humanitarian/medical supplies including 1500 COVID19 diagnostic kits provided by the Russian government. There is no confirmation on the possibility of the return flight including any persons or additional supplies. Reportedly, the overall special situation implemented by North Korean authorities may remain for a duration of time. Officials have communicated that the measures will remain until there is confidence that COVID19 is not spreading, or that there is a vaccine.

Does the North Korea medical community have the capability to accurately test for COVID19?


Are there cases of Coronavirus in North Korea?

Uncertain. North Korean officials have placed pockets of individuals in various parts of the country under quarantine for observation.

Has there been any United Nations' sanctions relief so that medical supplies and assistance may be provided from the international community to North Korea?

Yes. In the last 30 days, the UN "1718 Sanctions Committee" which reviews requests to allow exemptions to UN sanctions, approved exemption requests from the World Health Organization (WHO); the World Food Programme (WFP); International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC); and Medicines Sans Frontieres (MSF) (submitted through the UN's Resident Coordinator office) to provide supplies and equipment related to the COVID19 situation. The most recent requests were approved within 1-3 days.

What is the impact on North Korea's population as a whole as a result of border closures and quarantine implementation?

indicate an increase in food and fuel prices in North Korea, among other consequences. Because of internal travel restrictions within North Korea, shortages or price spikes may be more acute in some parts of the country than in others. A prolonged closure of North Korea's border could also complicate international efforts to treat the tuberculosis and multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis epidemic in the country.

Are international officials and workers in Pyongyang still confined to their homes and offices?

Some expatriates, including all diplomats and UN staff are now able to exit their quarantine situation and may be able to depart North Korea, pending a medical examination. Those who wish to do so, may depart North Korea through the special flight.