This Oct. 28, 2014, photo shows foreigners and North Koreans riding a shuttle bus to a plane bound for Beijing at the Sunan International Airport, in Pyongyang
Wong Maye-E—AP
By Elizabeth Barber
October 31, 2014

The U.S. media may be chock-full of news and analysis about the impending threat of Ebola, but America’s response still pales in comparison with that most hysterical of nations — North Korea.

Officials in Pyongyang have announced plans to quarantine all foreigners for 21 days over worries that the deadly virus will ravage the Hermit Nation, reports the Associated Press.

There have so far been no reported Ebola cases anywhere in Asia. North Korea is about 6,800 miles from the nearest Ebola case — in Dallas, Texas — and it has no direct flights to any country that has seen Ebola on its soil.

North Korea as a rule does not welcome lots of tourists, and those few tourists do not get to fraternize — much less exchange bodily fluids, as would be necessary for transmission of Ebola — with North Korea’s beleaguered population.

These days, the nation is accepting no tourists at all, since Pyongyang officials last week put all tourist visas on hold in a bid to keep the virus out, the Associated Press earlier reported.

Yet the announcement distributed Thursday about the quarantine indicates that Pyongyang is still very worried indeed about Ebola, says the Associated Press, which has a bureau in the North Korean capital. The U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea.

The staff of diplomatic missions and international organizations will apparently be permitted to stay in their homes for the mandated bout of agoraphobia. The fate of other foreigners is less clear: visitors from countries affected by the virus will be quarantined “at one set of locations,” while travelers from unaffected countries will be sent to “other locations, including hotels.”

It is also unclear if people in North Korea on short stays, like on brief business trips, will be forced to remain in the country for a full 21 days.

North Korea’s apparent distance from the disease also did not stop Pyongyang from earlier this week outfitting the two people it sent to meet a visiting high-level delegation from Japan in full hazmat gear.

Almost 5,000 people have died worldwide in the current Ebola outbreak, almost all in the West African nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

[AP]

Write to Elizabeth Barber at elizabeth.barber@timeasia.com.

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