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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 April, 2003, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
N Korea acts against Sars
North Korean quarantine officer looks into a microscope (image: N Korean TV)
North Korea's tight border controls are getting even tighter

North Korea announces tough restrictions in a bid to prevent the spread of the deadly respiratory disease Sars.

It has introduced strict quarantine measures and suspended a shipping service to Japan as well as a joint tourism project with South Korea.

Public health officials have outlined some of the steps being taken on state TV.

Emergency anti-epidemic centres have been set up at national and local level and quarantine officers are implementing stringent checks at all points of entry into the country, said Choe Ung-chin, head of the State Hygiene Inspection Institute at the North Korean Public Health Ministry.

Travellers bear cost

North Korea's proximity to China, where the outbreak was first recorded, is the cause of particular concern.

"Most North Koreans who make business trips abroad and foreigners who enter our country do so via China," Han Kyong-ho, another senior health official, explained.

North Korean quarantine official sterilises luggage (image: N Korean TV)
Travellers must pay for their own hotels during quarantine

"When the international train that runs from Sinuiju [border station] to Pyongyang enters the station, all travellers are thoroughly checked to see if they have Sars symptoms such as fever and dry coughs.

"Furthermore, all travellers coming into the DPRK from the places of origin of Sars are strictly isolated for 10 days."

Mr Han said that Sars germs could be present in travellers' luggage or in insects such as cockroaches.

"Therefore, every one of the travellers' possessions is thoroughly sterilised, and medical inspections of all workers at the station who have had contact with people who have travelled abroad are being carried out in detail," he said.

At Pyongyang international airport, incoming travellers who display any Sars symptoms are hospitalised while those who do not are quarantined for 10 days at specially designated hotels.

Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reports that the cost of such unforeseen stopovers - 100 euros a night exclusive of meals - will be borne by foreign travellers themselves.

Services suspended

North Korea has also suspended the Man Gyong Bong-92 shipping service to Niigata Port.

Japan's Kyodo news agency said the ship was slated to make three port calls to Japan in May, but two have already been cancelled.
North Korean quarantine officer inspects a passenger (image: N Korean TV)
Officers inspect rail travellers

The North Korean Government is also reported to have sent emails to thousands of pro-Pyongyang ethnic Koreans in Japan urging them not to visit their homeland for the time being.

And South Korea's Hyundai Asan Corp was "stunned" to learn that North Korea had suspended a joint North-South tourism project it operates over Sars fears, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reports.

The South Korean firm has run loss-making cruises for tourists to the North's scenic Mount Kumgang since 1998 in a symbolic project to promote inter-Korean reconciliation.

The suspension of the tours heightens the possibility that all of Hyundai's inter-Korean projects may come to a "screeching halt", at a time when the company has been campaigning hard to revitalize the business, the agency adds.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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