Increase in COVID-19 cases disrupts the North Korea-China rail freight project

COVID-19 cases have surged in the border areas on North Korea and China because of which the rail freight connection has been disrupted.

The move was taken just eight days after the two countries lifted an almost two-year-long trade cut-off.

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in Jan. 2020, Beijing and Pyongyang sealed off the 880-mile Sino-Korean border and suspended trade to prevent the virus from crossing the border into North Korea, reports Radio Free Asia.

The move killed off much of North Korea’s nascent market economy that relied on the purchase and sale of Chinese imports, and the lack of imported food, fertilizer and equipment led to skyrocketing food prices, the news portal reported.

The rail freight resumed between the two countries on Nov 1.

The start of the freight service had raised hopes that badly needed relief would be flowing across the border, but a new spike in COVID-19 cases in Dandong, across the Yalu River from North Korea’s Sinuiju has dashed those hopes.

“Since Friday, the coronavirus emergency quarantine has been bolstered in the Dandong area,” a resident of the city told RFA’s Korean Service on Sunday.

“Due to the outbreak, all public transportation networks were suspended and there is a red light up between customs offices in North Korea and China,” said the source, who requested anonymity to speak freely.

“Additionally, the Dandong municipal government will restrict businesses like restaurants, massage parlors, internet cafes, mahjong and gaming parlors and public saunas under a strengthened emergency quarantine posture,” the source said.

“Restaurants will have limits on the number of guests they can serve and will have limited business hours, and the police are banning large gatherings and restricting movement of people,” said the source.