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Yellow dust coming from China may affect North Korea

S.Korea issues warning against 'yellow dust'

The streets of the capital Pyongyang were reported to be virtually empty on Thursday following the warning.

The secretive state claims to be coronavirus-free but has been on high alert since January with strict border closures and restrictions on movement. There is no known link between the seasonal dust clouds and Covid-19.

However, they are not the only country to suggest a link. Turkmenistan also alleged virus-laden dust was the reason citizens were being told to wear masks. They have denied trying to cover up an outbreak.

State-controlled Korean Central Television (KCTV) broadcast special weather segments on Wednesday, warning of an influx of the yellow dust the next day. It also announced a nationwide ban on outdoor construction work.

Yellow dust refers to sand from Mongolian and Chinese deserts that blow into North and South Korea at certain times of the year. It is intermingled with toxic dust that for years has raised health concerns in both countries.

Embassies reported receiving a warning about Pyongyang’s dust concerns North Korean foreign ministry had warned it and other diplomatic missions and international organizations in the country about the dust storm, recommending all foreigners stay at home and tightly close their windows on Thursday.

North Korean state media has reasoned that research linking the coronavirus to airborne transmission means it “should take the incoming flow of yellow dust seriously”,

The US Centers for Disease Control has said coronavirus can remain suspended in the air for hours. However, it also says it is extremely rare for someone to be infected this way – especially outdoors. The main way people get infected is from standing in close proximity to someone who is infected who then coughs, sneezes or talks, spreading the virus through droplets.

Media in neighboring South Korea has also dismissed the suggestion that yellow dust from China could spread Covid-19 to the North as impossible.

Kim Jong un addressing the media about the yellow dust

Despite claiming the country has no cases of coronavirus, there are deep fears about Covid-19 in North Korea and leader Kim Jong-un has been holding high-level meetings to ensure tight restrictions remain in place.

Analysts have said it is highly unlikely that North Korea has not experienced any coronavirus cases at all. The dust had cleared from the Korean peninsula by Friday and was forecast to stay that way on the weekend.

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