North Korea has temporarily closed its border to all foreign tourists in response to a new type of coronavirus discovered in central China, according to a travel agency that operates tours to the country.
The border will be closed starting on Wednesday as a precaution, according to Young Pioneer Tours, which describes itself as a provider of budget travel to North Korea.
The government in Pyongyang did not immediately confirm the report and had not confirmed any cases of a lung disease caused by the new virus in North Korea as of Wednesday.
North Korean state TV reported that the country was working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent the spread of the disease, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
Pyongyang’s official newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported on the outbreak of the disease in China and on measures taken there to contain it, adding that the virus was spreading quickly.
The reclusive nation has shut its border on previous occasions out of fear of viral illnesses being brought into the country, for example during when the SARS virus broke out in 2003 and over Ebola in 2014.
The new coronavirus belongs to the same family of viruses that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a disease that killed 800 people globally in a 2002-03 pandemic that also started in China.
More than 400 patients have been infected with the new type of coronavirus in China, and nine people have died, Chinese state media said on Wednesday.
Cases have also been identified in Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and the United States.