North Korea to open schools amid signs of relaxation of coronavirus rules

North Korean schools usually begin their spring term on April 1. PHOTO: AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS

SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea will open schools this month after delays over concern about the novel coronavirus, state media has reported, the latest sign of opening up even though the isolated country has said it has had no confirmed cases of the disease.

North Korean schools usually begin their spring term on April 1, but it was postponed as the government took various steps to ward off the virus, including sealing its borders.

State media has said high schools and universities started classes on April 20.

All other schools, kindergartens, day-care centres and nursing homes will reopen early this month, state radio reported late on Monday (June 1).

"Teachers and helpers will thoroughly follow hygiene rules, with thermometers and hand sanitisers installed at entrances of all classrooms and offices, while parents are advised to educate their children," the official Korean Central Broadcasting Committee (KCBC) said.

While North Korea has not reported any cases of the coronavirus, which was first detected in China late last year, South Korea's main intelligence agency has said an outbreak there cannot be ruled out, as the North had exchanges of people with China before closing the border in late January.

Children at kindergartens and day-care centres will get checked for the virus and buildings will be disinfected, the KCBC added.

Naenara, a North Korean state Internet portal, released photos of high-school students having temperature checks when their schools opened in late April.

There have been other signs of a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions.

A video posted last month on YouTube by another state outlet, DPRK Today, showed a restaurant in the capital, Pyongyang, full of customers with many people, including staff, wearing masks.

The KCBC encouraged people to use take-out services, while calling for workers in the fisheries industry, ports and freight stations to obey virus prevention measures.

"Pick-up orders are promoted at restaurants and food stores," the KCBC said.

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