North Korean authorities have announced the lifting of Ebola-related lifted travel restrictions; the country had been closed to tourism for a period of four months.
"We have been informed by Air Koryo that North Korea's borders are now open for travel and the 4-month-long Ebola travel ban was lifted as of Monday, March 2," Uri Tours, a travel company specializing in tours to North Korea confirmed in a statement posted on its website. "According to Air Koryo, everything is back to normal," the statement added.
Officials in Pyongyang cited by AP noted that travelers from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa would continue to be subject to quarantine. Citing North Korean officials, China's Xinhua newspaper confirmed that "travelers from other parts of the world are no longer subject to the quarantine. They only need to receive a medical examination in the Pyongyang Friendship Hospital."
Pyongyang had closed its borders to tourism in late October of last year and imposed a 21-day quarantine on people entering the country, despite no cases of Ebola having been reported in the countries around North Korea. North Korea's decision was based on a strict health and security regime over its borders aimed at controlling the spread of infectious diseases in the guarded country. In 2003, the country temporarily closed its borders following the spread of the SARS virus.
North Korea has been becoming increasingly open to tourism over the past several years in an attempt to obtain foreign currency and improve its public image. Most of its tourists come from China, with a sprinkling of tourists from Russia and Western countries visiting to find out more about life in the 'hermit kingdom.'
Ebola has killed more than 9,500 people, mostly in western Africa, since the emergence of the disease in southern Guinea in December, 2013. The virus is spread via direct contact with bodily fluids.