09 March 2020
Pyongyang: Dozens of foreigners residing in North Korea left the country on a charter flight to Russia on Monday after spending weeks in quarantine due to fears of the spread of the novel coronavirus.
According to the specialist Flight Radar website, North Korean flag carrier Air Koryo's flight from Pyongyang landed at Vladivostok at 10.48 a.m., reports Efe news.
The plane, which was initially scheduled to fly last week and the departure of which was delayed until Monday for unknown reasons, is believed to have transported some 60 people, many of them diplomats and employees of international organizations.
British Ambassador to North Korea, Colin Crooks, confirmed in a Twitter post that foreign personnel from the French mission and German embassy in the North Korean capital had left.
"Sad to say farewell this morning to colleagues from German Embassy and French Office #NorthKorea which are closing temporarily. #BritishEmbassy remains open," he tweeted.
The Air Koryo flight is the first to leave North Korea in several weeks after the country closed its borders at the end of January to prevent the entry of the new coronavirus.
The country cut off traffic to and from Russia and China soon after the epidemic began, while Air Koryo stopped operations for about a month, and commercial flights were suspended.
Another of the measures taken, aside from the closure of schools and the cancellation of public events, was the activation of quarantine for foreigners.
The quarantine, which lasted more than one month, has been criticized by some, given that the majority of those affected had not left North Korea for some time and because the closure has also prevented representatives of the World Health Organization analyzing the COVID-19 situation in the country.
North Korea also keeps thousands of its citizens in domestic quarantine, but insists that it has not detected a single case of coronavirus to date.
Experts believe that the spread of the virus in the impoverished country could have dire consequences due to deficiencies in its health system and amid food and medical shortages due to international sanctions.