North Korea restricting tourism because of Ebola fears, tour groups say

Updated 12:12 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014

Story highlights

Tour groups to N. Korea say that starting Friday, nation isn't allowing international tourists in

KCNA: Travelers will "undergo more thorough-going check and quarantine ... than ever before"

No cases of Ebola have been reported in Asia

Beijing CNN —  

North Korea is closing its borders to international tourists because of concerns about Ebola, tour agencies specializing in the country were told.

Beijing-based Koryo Tours and Young Pioneers Tours issued statements Thursday saying they received news “from our partners in Pyongyang” that international tourists will not be allowed to enter North Korea, starting Friday.

“It is presently unknown how long this closure will be in effect for but we are hopeful that our planned tours in November and December will take place,” Koryo Tours said.

KCNA, the country’s state-run news agency, said North Korea is taking “preventive measures” Friday to “control the infection by Ebola.”

It stated that travelers would “undergo more thorough-going check and quarantine … than ever before.” North Korea’s public health agencies are “regularly examining all people in order to rapidly confirm people suspicious of having contracted the disease and taking measures to treat them,” KCNA reported.

The report did not state explicitly that it was closing its borders to international tourists. It remains unclear if business travelers to North Korea will be affected.

In recent years, North Korea has become an increasingly popular destination for international tourists, including Americans, despite a U.S. State Department warning not to travel there because of the recent detentions of its citizens.

This is not the first time North Korea is restricting its borders because of disease concerns. In 2003, the country temporarily shut its borders as the SARS epidemic swept eastern Asia.

Currently, there are no reported Ebola cases in Asia.

Six West African countries, including Mali, have been hit by the virus, which the World Health Organization reported has killed more than 4,800 people.

Most of the deaths have been in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. But fears about Ebola’s spread have mounted since the infections of health care workers in the United States and Spain.

Complete Ebola coverage

CNN’s KJ Kwon contributed to this report from Seoul, South Korea.