North Korea has announced it will allow its citizens living abroad to return home in an easing of its coronavirus-era border controls. But it will still require them to do a one-week quarantine.
The country has decided to “adjust the anti-epidemic degree in reference to the eased worldwide pandemic situation,” according to the State Emergency Epidemic Prevention Headquarters.
The announcement, reported by state media outlet KCNA on Sunday, comes months after most other Asian countries relaxed the last of their coronavirus-era restrictions.
China, which had long operated one of the region’s toughest Covid regimes, abandoned its zero-tolerance approach in December 2022.
Recent moves by North Korea, which closed its borders in early 2020 in response to the pandemic, have signaled that the country is reopening, but Pyongyang will still require even returning citizens to quarantine on arrival.
“Those who return will be put under proper medical observation at quarantine wards for a week,” it said in the announcement.
The news comes after a North Korean flight from Pyongyang arrived in Beijing on Tuesday, in what was the first known international commercial flight to leave North Korea since January 2020.
Flights between North Korea and Russia are also set to resume, with four flights between Pyongyang and Vladivostok this month.
Also this past week, about a hundred North Korean Taekwondo athletes arrived in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, to compete in the 22nd International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) World Championship in what is believed to be the first overseas trip taken by a North Korean sports team since restrictions were imposed in the country in 2020.
Previous reporting by Aruzhan Zeinulla, Mihir Melwani, Lilit Marcus, Yoonjung Seo, and Paula Hancocks
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