North Korea orders five-day lockdown in capital over ‘respiratory illness’

For now, only Pyongyang appears to be on lockdown, but North Korea’s state news outlet published a separate story on Tuesday about “anti-epidemic work” underway in the country’s southern city of Kaesong.

The lockdown is a major turnaround for the isolated nation, whose leader Kim Jong Un declared victory over Covid-19 in August and completely eradicated the virus — claims that have been questioned by international health authorities.

North Korea’s government denied any outbreak of Covid-19 for much of the pandemic — despite sharing a border with China — until a major outbreak in May, when Pyongyang also went on lockdown.

Human Rights Watch said earlier this month that the North Korean government has used the pandemic as a pretext to ramp up repressive measures, including improving fences, infrastructure and border controls, including an unconditional “shoot to kill” order for all since 2020 entering or leaving buffer zones with China without permission.

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