North Korea Bans Foreigners From Participating in Marathon From Fear of Ebola

luvsmiling, Feb. 23, 2015, 8:05 a.m.

North Korea has banned foreigners from running an international marathon race, set for April in the North's capital of Pyongyang, due to fears about the spread of the Ebola virus, two China-based travel firms specializing in tours to the reclusive state said Monday.

North Korea has barred foreign tourists from entering the country since October last year, requiring all foreigners visiting the North to be put under quarantine for 21 days as a precaution against the spread of Ebola.

"We are sorry to announce that we have been informed by our partners in North Korea that no foreign runners -- amateur or professional -- will be allowed to participate in this year's Pyongyang Marathon," Beijing-based Koryo Tours said in a notice posted on its website.

"At this stage, it is unclear exactly when the border will reopen for tourism," according to the notice.  The annual marathon event was scheduled to be held in Pyongyang on April 12. On its Twitter account, Koryo Tours said it was informed that the April marathon event will take place for only North Koreans, but foreigners are banned "due to the fear of the spread of Ebola."

Koryo Tours described the North's latest restriction against Ebola as "very disappointing."  Another China-based tour agency, Young Pioneer Tours, also confirmed the ban.  Young Pioneer Tours said it "has been confirmed the Pyongyang Marathon will not take place this year for tourists due to the current Ebola restriction which interfered with preparations for the marathon event."     However, Young Pioneer Tours said it expects North Korea to lift the Ebola travel restriction within weeks.

"We have been working closely with our partners in North Korea in regards to when the current Ebola travel restriction will be lifted, and tourism to the DPRK will resume as normal. We are expecting the borders to reopen very soon within the coming weeks," it said.  It is not the first time that North Korea has closed its borders because of a deadly disease. In 2003, the North closed its borders for several months due to the spread of the SARS virus.

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