North Korea to Lift Ebola Ban on Foreign Tourists: Tour Group

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North Korea to Lift Ebola Ban on Foreign Tourists: Tour Group

File photo of the Ebola virus.

Seoul: 

North Korea is set to lift a four-month ban on foreign tourism imposed over concerns of the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, a Beijing-based tour group said on Monday.

Koryo Tours, one of the handful of agencies running regular tours to the North, said it had been contacted by the National Tourism Administration in Pyongyang with news that there was "some movement" over the current travel ban.

"We were told we should expect confirmation later today with details of the country's plan for reopening the border," the agency said in a statement.

North Korea, which has not registered a single suspected case of Ebola, closed its borders to foreign tourists back in October.

It also strictly enforced a 21-day quarantine period on anyone entering the country, including foreign diplomats.

Just last week it announced a ban on foreigners taking part in its annual international Pyongyang marathon in April.

Tourism is a crucial source of hard currency for the cash-strapped North, but it seemed willing to take a financial hit to avert any chance of an Ebola outbreak that its weak health infrastructure would be totally incapable of dealing with.

The reclusive nation has a history of shutting itself off in the face of external health threats.

In 2003, it suspended foreign tours for three months due to fears over the spread of SARS.

Ebola, one of the deadliest pathogens known to man, is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person showing symptoms such as fever or vomiting.

More than 9,500 people have died of the disease since the west African epidemic emerged in southern Guinea in December 2013.

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