Monday, April 19

North Korea’s COVID restrictions lead to ‘exodus of foreign diplomats’

Most foreign diplomatic missions in North Korea have closed due to tough coronavirus restrictions, the Russian embassy in Pyongyang said on Thursday.

in a post on Facebook, the Russian embassy said 38 foreign nationals who had left the North Korean capital on March 18 had completed their mandatory two-week quarantine and were allowed to enter China on Thursday.

“We wish our colleagues in the Pyongyang diplomatic corps, with whom we have become especially close during the harsh months of coronavirus lockdown, a happy homecoming,” he wrote.

He added that it is unlikely that the “collective exit” “will be the last” and that “the exodus of foreigners will continue.”

“The locks are already locked on the doors of the missions of Great Britain, Venezuela, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland and France; all foreign personnel of international humanitarian organizations have been gone, “it said.

The UK embassy closed on May 27, 2020. Ambassador Colin Crooks said on Twitter that they are “still waiting for the border with North Korea to reopen.”

Euronews has contacted the French Foreign Ministry for comment.

North Korea closed its border and imposed a strict blockade a year ago in response to the pandemic that severely restricted foreign trade and dealt another major blow to an already fragile economy.

Pyongyang claims not to have recorded a single case of COVID-19, but experts have cast doubt on this claim.

According to the Russian embassy, ​​there are now fewer than 290 foreign nationals in North Korea with only nine ambassadors and four charge d’affaires representing their countries.

“The people leaving the Korean capital are understandable; not everyone can bear the unprecedented restrictions, acute shortages of essential goods, including medicines, and the lack of opportunities to solve health problems,” the Russian embassy said.

Some of the Russian diplomatic staff have left. Earlier this month, the embassy shared the arduous journey they had to undertake to return to Russia, which included a 32-hour train ride followed by a two-hour bus ride and ended with a car ride on the last leg of a kilometer.

The UN announced on March 20 that its remaining staff in North Korea, working for the World Food Program, had left the country.

“Stringent COVID prevention measures have impacted humanitarian operations in (North Korea), causing a reduction in operational capacity, a shortage of essential humanitarian supplies and delays in the delivery of the humanitarian program,” the spokesman for UN Stephane Dujarric.

“The UN is working with the government in support of a COVAX vaccination campaign and hopes that it will provide an opportunity for staff to return and expand our support,” he added.

North Korea will be assigned a total of 1.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines before the end of May to the COVAX program, co-chaired by the World Health Organization.

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