North Korea Claims Dust Cloud from China Could Spread Coronavirus

SEOUL, REPUBLIC OF KOREA: Skyscrapers in downtown Seoul on 13 March 2006 are shrouded by yellow dust storms blowing in from China's Gobi desert. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a message 05 June 2006 for World Environment Day that desertification is exacerbating extreme poverty and sparking conflict over …
KIM JAE-HWAN/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea’s state-run Korean Central Television (KCTV) broadcast special weather segments on Wednesday warning of a yellow dust cloud arriving from China on Thursday.

The segments reportedly claimed that the seasonal dust cloud could spread the Chinese coronavirus and cautioned residents to stay indoors to avoid the dust and possible transmission of the virus.

KCTV referred to Hwang Sa or Yellow Dust in Korea, according to translations. Yellow Dust originates in the deserts of Northern China and Mongolia. Prevailing winds carry the dust to the Korean Peninsula at certain times of the year. The dust contains a mixture of sand and toxic particles from China’s industrial sites and coal plants.

North Korea’s state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Thursday said “all workers … must clearly recognize the danger of invading malicious viruses,” referring to the impending dust cloud.

The North Korean foreign ministry warned several embassies and diplomatic organizations in the country on Wednesday to heed the state’s warnings about the dust cloud and remain indoors while it passes through North Korea.

“[North Korea’s] Foreign Ministry informed our Embassy and other diplomatic missions accredited here … that, due to the expected approach of a dust storm from China, all foreigners in [North Korea] … are strongly advised from the morning until the end of the day on October 22 … [to] exclude access to the city [Pyongyang] and stay at home, tightly closing the windows,” the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang wrote on its Facebook page.

“As we were explained, these measures are due to the fact that, together with particles of ‘yellow dust’, … [the Chinese] coronavirus can be introduced into the territory of the republic [sic]. … We will follow the recommendations of the Korean authorities,” the Russian embassy’s statement read.

North Korean state media claims that because the Chinese coronavirus has been linked to airborne transmission, North Koreans “should take the incoming flow of yellow dust seriously,” NK News reported.

Despite Pyongyang’s claims, there is no known link between the seasonal dust clouds and the transmission of the Chinese coronavirus. South Korean media has “dismissed the suggestion that yellow dust from China could spread Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] to the North as impossible,” according to NK News.

“The dust had cleared from the Korean peninsula by Friday and was forecast to stay that way on the weekend,” the BBC reported.

North Korea is not alone in suggesting that seasonal dust clouds could spread coronavirus.

“Turkmenistan also alleged virus-laden dust was the reason citizens were being told to wear masks” in July by government health authorities. State officials in the Central Asian country “have denied trying to cover up an outbreak” of the Chinese coronavirus by blaming stricter mask mandates on dust, the BBC noted on Friday. Turkmenistan, like North Korea, has denied the existence of any official Chinese coronavirus cases in the country.


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