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North Korea’s capital Pyongyang locked down due to ‘respiratory disease’

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North Korea has locked down its capital, Pyongyang, for five days, a Seoul-based news agency reported on Wednesday, after a spike in cases of an unspecified respiratory disease.

South Korea’s NK News, which monitors North Korea, cited a government notification in its report. The notice did not mention COVID-19 but said residents in the city are required to stay home through the end of Sunday and must undergo temperature checks several times each day.

On Tuesday, the site reported that Pyongyang residents appeared to be stockpiling goods in anticipation of tougher measures. It is not clear if other regions of the country have imposed new lockdowns.

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

The secretive country has never confirmed how many people have contracted COVID, apparently because it lacks the means to carry out testing on a large scale.

Instead, it reported daily numbers of patients with fever, a number that rose to about 4.77 million, out of a population of about 25 million. But it has not reported such cases since July 29.

State media continued to report on anti-pandemic measures to combat respiratory diseases, including influenza, but has yet to report on the lockdown order.

On Tuesday, the official KCNA news agency said the city of Kaesong, near the border with South Korea, had stepped up public communication campaigns “so that all workers will voluntarily abide by the anti-epidemic rules in their work and life.”

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