- Title: Diplomats flown out of North Korea, missions shut amid coronavirus concern
- Date: 9th March 2020
- Summary: VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA (MARCH 9, 2020) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF PLANE WITH EVACUATED FOREIGN DIPLOMATS AND BUSINESSMEN AIRPORT TERMINAL VARIOUS OF PEOPLE ARRIVING FROM NORTH KOREA ENTERING ARRIVALS HALL WEARING FACE MASKS FIRST SECRETARY OF GERMAN EMBASSY IN NORTH KOREA, KLAUS STROSS, ENTERING ARRIVALS HALL (SOUNDBITE) (English) FIRST SECRETARY OF GERMAN EMBASSY IN NORTH KOREA, KLAUS STROSS, SAYING: "In my opinion it's under control. We were afraid of the quarantine in the first few days. We did a cycling trip around town on Saturday, about 35 km. There was nothing to see out of the ordinary. Everything was fine, only everybody was wearing a mask. That's the only thing we found a bit strange." PASSENGERS ENTERING ARRIVALS HALL (SOUNDBITE) (English) FIRST SECRETARY OF GERMAN EMBASSY IN NORTH KOREA, KLAUS STROSS, SAYING: "I wish I would not have left today, I'm all for it, coming back, next moths or in two months, even if it takes 6 months, I will be there. We left our whole apartment full of stuff, so we did not evacuate to leave everything behind." PASSENGERS ENTERING ARRIVALS HALL (SOUNDBITE) (English) GERMAN AMBASSADOR TO NORTH KOREA, PIT HELTMANN, SAYING (ASKED WHY DID HE LEAVE NORTH KOREA): "I cannot comment in detail on that, but it was the decision of the German government." HELTMANN SPEAKING TO MEDIA (SOUNDBITE) (English) GERMAN AMBASSADOR TO NORTH KOREA, PIT HELTMANN, SAYING: "It is business as normal, but you can see that everybody wears their maskâ€¦ but without exception. Everybody does that. And there is a certain tension in the city and all of the country because people are aware of the coronavirus. And they have it in their media. So it's the biggest issue they are dealing with at the moment." PASSENGER IN MASK WALKING AWAY PASSENGERS IN MASKS ENTERING ARRIVALS HALL (SOUNDBITE) (English) 63 YEARS OLD ITALIAN BUSINESSMAN, KENAN (NO FAMILY NAME GIVEN), SAYING: "I believe that really there are no cases (of coronavirus) in North Korea, because otherwise the government does not have any interest to not saying about the cases because they need to help the outside (countries)." PASSENGERS WITH LUGGAGE AIRPORT TERMINAL PEOPLE NEAR AIRPORT MAN IN MASK VARIOUS OF PLANE ON TARMAC
- Keywords: North Korea Russia coronavirus evacuation coronavirus fears coronavirus outbreak diplomats evacuation security checks
- Reuters ID: LVA001C4BZ22V
- Location: VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA
- City: VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA
- Country: Russia
- Duration: 00:03:22
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Topics: Disaster/Accidents
- Story Text: North Korea flew dozens of diplomats out of the country to Russia on Monday (March 9), including the staff of the German, French and Swiss missions which were shut amid concern in the isolated country about the possible spread of the coronavirus.
North Korea has not reported any cases of the illness, despite bordering China where the epidemic started and South Korea which is suffering a major outbreak. Pyongyang has reinforced border checks and ordered foreigners from any country that has reported a case to spend 30 days in quarantine.
Diplomats who were flown on Monday to Vladivostok, a Russian port on the Pacific Ocean, said North Koreans now wear face masks and are clearly concerned about the spread of the disease.
"There is a certain tension in the city and all of the country because people are aware of the coronavirus. They have it in their media, so it's the biggest issue they are dealing with at the moment," Pit Heltmann, Germany's ambassador, told reporters after arriving in Vladivostok.
Klaus Stross, the German embassy's first secretary, said he had not witnessed any disruptions to construction projects or public life in the country. He said that 103 people - 63 foreigners and 40 North Koreans - had been on the flight, serviced by North Korea's Air Koryo airline.
The Russian embassy said the group flown to Russia on Monday included the full staff of the German, French and Swiss missions, 13 staff and family members from Russia's own embassy, as well as diplomats from Poland, Romania, Mongolia and Egypt. Aid workers and businessmen were also on the flight.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea (DPRK), urged Pyongyang on Monday to allow full access for medical and humanitarian experts. He said Pyongyang was making extensive efforts to prevent an outbreak, but its ill-nourished population would be particularly at risk.
Britain's ambassador to North Korea, Colin Crooks, tweeted earlier in the day: "Sad to say farewell this morning to colleagues from German Embassy and French Office in North Korea which are closing temporarily."
"British Embassy remains open," he added.
Germany has an embassy in North Korea. France does not have formal diplomatic relations with North Korea but runs an office to foster exchanges.
Sweden's ambassador to North Korea, Joachim Bergstrom, last week posted a picture on Twitter of himself in Pyongyang, and said he was happy to be out of the compound where he was quarantined for a month.
North Korea, slapped with U.N. Security Council sanctions because of its nuclear and missile programmes, launched multiple short-range projectiles into the sea on Monday, a week after it resumed missile tests following a three-month break, South Korea's military said.
(Production: Anastasia Adasheva, Evgeniy Oparin)
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