North Korea sealed its borders more than a year ago, suspended flights and closed its borders with neighboring China and Russia because of the pandemic.
This week some Russians found a way out.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday that several employees at the North Korean embassy had taken an unusual route – one that included a bus ride and a ride in a hand-pushed railroad car – to reach the country’s border with Russia.
The group included the embassy’s third secretary, Vladislav Sorokin, and his 3-year-old daughter, the ministry said on its official Facebook page. A photo was also posted showing several children sitting next to suitcases on the cart and adults walking behind them on a railroad track and snow-capped hills in the distance.
When the group arrived at a Russian border post in Siberia, they were met by colleagues from the Foreign Ministry and taken to an airport in Vladivostok, the ministry said.
The mail did not reveal whether the group had violated North Korean regulations or encountered police or border officials. The ministry did not immediately respond to an email on Friday requesting more details about the trip.
North Korea closed its borders in January 2020 fearing a Covid-19 outbreak could seriously test its under-equipped public health system and a domestic economy that has already struggled under international sanctions, analysts say.
The country has also deployed troops along its border with China to prevent smugglers from smuggling the coronavirus into South Korea, General Robert B. Abrams, commander of the U.S. military, said in September.
Northern leader Kim Jong-un said last summer that he would not accept international aid after devastating floods in his country for fear that outside help could bring in the virus, state news media reported.
But Mr Kim is apparently ready to import Covid-19 vaccines. North Korea is expected to receive nearly two million doses of AstraZeneca by the middle of this year, according to a report from Covax, an international group that has negotiated vaccine doses.
The north’s state news media has long insisted the country has no confirmed Covid-19 cases, but outside experts are skeptical.