North Korea shuts down capital due to ‘respiratory illness’

SEOUL, Jan 25 (Reuters) – Authorities have ordered a five-day lockdown in the North Korean capital Pyongyang due to rising cases of an unspecified respiratory illness, the Russian embassy and Seoul-based NK News said on Wednesday, citing a government announcement.

A statement shared by the embassy on its Facebook page said “a special anti-epidemic period has been established” and called on foreign representatives to keep staff inside. The order also said that individuals should take their temperature four times a day and report the results to the hospital by phone.

The notice made no mention of COVID-19, although it did cite “recurring winter illnesses such as flu and other respiratory illnesses.”

The lockdowns were first reported by South Korea’s NK News, which monitors the secretive North Korea.

On Tuesday, Pyongyang residents were stockpiling supplies in anticipation of tougher measures, the website said. It is not clear if other parts of the country have imposed new lockdowns.

North Korea acknowledged its first COVID-19 outbreak last year, but declared victory over the virus by August.

It does not confirm how many people have contracted Covid because there is no means of conducting widespread testing.

Instead, Pyongyang recorded a daily toll of flu cases that rose to 4.77 million in a population of about 25 million. But no such cases have been reported since July 29.

State media have continued to report on anti-pandemic measures to combat respiratory illnesses, including the flu, but have yet to report on the lockdown order.

On Tuesday, state news agency KCNA said the city of Kaesong, near the border with South Korea, had intensified public relations campaigns, saying “all working people are voluntarily observing anti-epidemic regulations in their work and life”.

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Report by Josh Smith; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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