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Seoul July 4 – North Korea, which had maintained its rigid Covid-19 restrictions long after most countries eased pandemic measures, appears to have lifted its mask mandate this month, state media footage and photos revealed on Tuesday.
News footage that aired on the North’s Korean Central TV on Monday showed hundreds of young people seated close to one another without face masks at a theatre in North Hamgyong province, reports Yonhap News Agency.
Photos released by the Rodong Sinmum, the North’s main newspaper, on Tuesday, showed officials at a publishing bureau in the same North Korean province without face masks.
Similar photos taken at various venues also showed people not wearing face masks, with the exception of farmers spraying pesticides and medical workers at a hospital.
This has led to the view that North Korea, which had maintained its border lockdown and strict anti-virus measures despite deepening economic hardships, may have finally lifted its mask mandate.
An official at Seoul’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said that while additional monitoring is necessary, North Korea could have taken the measure out of a “realistic need”.
“Photos carried by the Rodong Sinmun show that the wearing of face masks has notably declined since July 3. They are only worn in extremely rare cases,” the official told reporters.