North Korean authorities in Sinuiju have shut down transit in and out of the city presumably as part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Daily NK sources have reported.
“Authorities in the city began completely blocking the entry of outsiders from about a week ago,” a North Pyongan Province-based source told Daily NK on Feb. 25. “Only those who are permitted or have been ordered to enter the city are allowed in.”
North Korean authorities have not provided any reason why Sinuiju has been cut off. North Koreans living near the city speculate that the city is being quarantined because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
“I haven’t heard of any deaths or of anyone being quarantined in the city due to the disease, however,” the source cautioned.
A DANGER ZONE
Sinuiju is across the Yalu River from the Chinese city of Dandong, where at least seven people have been infected with COVID-19.
The North Korean city reportedly accepted a large number of Chinese tourists before North Korean authorities decided to shutdown the Sino-North Korean border in late January. This, along with its proximity to China, has made the city particularly susceptible to an outbreak.
Daily NK sources suggest that North Korean authorities may have decided to completely blockade Sinuiju from outsiders just as Chinese authorities have done in Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus epidemic in China.
Daily NK sources also reported that other cities in North Pyongan Province apart from Sinuiju have been locked down by North Korean authorities.
“Sinuiju, Wuiju and Ryongchon [counties] have been completely shut down,” one source said. “No one is allowed to move between cities or between cities and counties in the province.”
Ryongchon and Wuiju counties are both located near the Sino-North Korean border and are home to many cross-border smugglers. As a result, they both face high likelihoods of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Recently, several people have died after suffering from high fevers in Wuiju and Ryongchon counties, leading to speculation that their deaths were due to COVID-19 infections.
VEHICULAR MOVEMENT ALSO RESTRICTED
Vehicles have also been restricted from entering or leaving Sinuiju, sources said.
“Vehicles aren’t allowed to leave the city, which has led to a shutdown in the logistics industry there,” one source reported.
A merchant who frequently into Sinuiju for business told Daily NK sources, “All the Chinese goods I bought to sell are in Sinuiju, but I can’t sell them because I’m unable to enter the city.”
He added that other merchants are in a similar situation.
Imports from China have fallen drastically since North Korea shutdown its border with the country. Daily NK sources speculated that commodity prices in the border region could rise again as long as vehicular traffic remains blocked into and out of cities located there.
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