N.Korea lifts mask mandate, distancing rules after declaring COVID victory
North Korea has dropped a face mask mandate and other social distancing rules as leader Kim Jong Un declared victory over COVID-19 this week, state media said on Saturday, three months after its first acknowledgement of the virus outbreak in the isolated country.
Kim presided over a COVID meeting on Wednesday and ordered the lifting of maximum anti-epidemic measures imposed in May, adding that North Korea must maintain a "steel-strong anti-epidemic barrier."
Under the shift to a "normal" anti-epidemic system from a "top-level" system, North Korea dropped the mask-wearing obligation and other rules such as limit on service time of commercial and public facilities in all areas except border regions, according to the official KCNA.
The North recommended those experiencing respiratory symptoms should keep wearing masks, and urged people to maintain vigilance against "abnormal things" which Pyongyang has cited as the cause of infections.
The North has blamed its COVID outbreak on the "alien things" near its border with the South, with Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong vowing "deadly retaliation" for causing the outbreak.