Amid Covid- 19 crisis, life in Pyongyang normal says India's envoy to North Korea

Written By: Sidhant Sibal WION
NEW DELHI Published: Jun 02, 2020, 09.03 AM(IST)

Indian Ambassador to North Korea (DPRK) Atul Malhari Gotsurve. Photograph:( WION )

Story highlights

Ambassador Gotsurve describing the situation in the country said "shops, services, universities, schools, factories and offices" are open in the country and few Indians left the country on 9th March to Vladivostok on a flight specially arranged for foreigners by DPRK.

The Indian Ambassador to North Korea (DPRK) Atul Malhari Gotsurve speaking on the COVID situation in the country has said life has been normal in the country's capital Pyongyang. North Korea's official name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Speaking exclusively to our Principal Diplomatic Correspondent Sidhant Sibal from Pyongyang, Ambassador Gotsurve describing the situation in the country said "shops, services, universities, schools, factories and offices" are open in the country and few Indians left the country on 9th March to Vladivostok on a flight specially arranged for foreigners by DPRK. This is the first time any Indian Ambassador to DPRK has spoken to any India based channel in past few years.

WION: How has been the ground situation in DPRK? How are Indian diplomats faring?

Ambassador Atul Malhari Gotsurve: According to the local authorities, there is no Covid- 19 case in DPRK. As per the local office of WHO, the country has carried out hundreds of tests for Covid-19 and none of them has been found to be positive. I find that life in Pyongyang is normal. Shops and services are open and so are the universities, schools, factories and offices. Public transport for locals too is functioning smoothly. Despite some difficulties created by the extraordinary Covid-19 pandemic around the world as also in DPRK, the morale of all of us at the Embassy is high.

WION: Anything about the measures taken by the DPRK Government to contain the spread?

Ambassador Atul Malhari Gotsurve: DPRK had moved very early to combat Covid-19 with several anti-pandemic measures which continue till date. The Government here took the first step of snapping all international air links with the outside world as early as 1 st February 2020. Similarly, the international land borders with China and Russia were also sealed with no one allowed to either enter or exit the country. Everyone, including diplomats who went to China in January 2020, was quarantined for a month. Any person, if allowed at all, to enter DPRK, has to undergo a 30-day quarantine at a special place designated by the local authorities. Use of face mask is compulsory for everyone, including diplomats, at all public places. Shops, restaurants, offices, factories, hospitals, etc. have the protocol to go through thermal screening and to use hand-sanitizers before entering the building. These steps seem to have shown good results in combating Covid-19.

WION: How is the Indian Mission reaching to stranded Indians, if there are any?

Ambassador Atul Malhari Gotsurve: There are no stranded Indians in DPRK. The number of the Indian diasporas is small and most of them work for UN Agencies and International Aid Organisations. The Mission is in constant touch with them at a personal level and also through social media platform on a regular basis. A few Indians left Pyongyang by a flight specially arranged for foreigners by DPRK to Vladivostok on 9 March 2020 and have reached India safely.

WION: Any plans for repatriation?

Ambassador Atul Malhari Gotsurve: As of now, there is no request for repatriation from any Indian. If required, we will assist the Indian community suitably in co-ordination with the local authorities and MEA, New Delhi.

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