North Korea bans all foreign tourists over Ebola fears


North Korea has banned foreign tourists over Ebola fears.

The reclusive regime has reportedly begun denying tourist visas for visitors from abroad, but it is not clear if foreign dignitaries or officials are also banned.

"We have just received official news from our partners in the DPRK that, as of tomorrow, tourists from any country, regardless of where they have recently visited, will not be permitted to enter," Gareth Johnson, of Young Pioneer Tours, told Reuters.

Young Pioneer Tours operates out of Beijing and brings people into North Korea. DPRK is short for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the hermit nation's official name.

KCNA, the DPRK's state-run news agency, announced earlier this year that the country was working to quarantine visitors believed to be suffering from the lethal virus upon arrival into Pyongyang.

"It is unknown how long this closure will be in effect, and due to the very changeable nature of DPRK policy," Nick Bonner of Koryo Tours, a travel group based in Beijing that also specializes in North Korea tours, told Reuters.

"We are still hopeful we will be able to run the three tours we have scheduled for the remainder of 2014."

The North's tourism industry is not exactly booming, but groups do often visit the country.

It has closed its borders in the past to keep deadly outbreaks from ravaging its long-suffering citizens.

"In 2003, the country closed its borders due to the threat of SARS, despite not a single case being reported there," said Bonner.

Nearly 5,000 people have been confirmed dead from Ebola since the most recent outbreak began this summer in western Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). But many believe the number to be significantly higher.

Another 10,000 cases have been reported, and officials said last week they expect the death rate to hit 70 percent in the coming months.

Timelapse: North Korea's Munsu Water Park
Timelapse: North Korea's Munsu Water Park

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