North Korea is to close its borders to tourists from Friday over fears of the spread of Ebola, it has been claimed.
Tour operators specialising in trips to North Korea have said officials in Pyongyang were barring entry to all foreign tourists.
There have been no reported cases of the Ebola virus in North Korea, although it has sealed its borders in the past because of health concerns.
Meanwhile, in late September, North Korea's official news agency, KCNA, said the country was stepping up quarantine efforts to detect tourists and foreigners who might be infected with the Ebola virus. Gareth Johnson, of Young Pioneer Tours, a travel company based in China which runs tours in North Korea, told Reuters: "We have just received official news from our partners in the DPRK that, as of tomorrow, tourists from any country, regardless of where they have recently visited, will not be permitted to enter."
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
1/7 25 March 2014
This outbreak of the Ebola virus first emerged in the Guéckédou region of Guinea, at a crossroads with both Liberia and Sierra Leone
2/7 31 March
On 31 March the WHO confirmed the outbreak was now international, spreading first into Liberia's northern-most Lofa region
3/7 27 May
The virus spread to Sierra Leone at the end of May - just as agencies were hoping the worst was over
4/7 27 July
In Sierra Leone the virus boomed, and then it spread to Nigeria when the Liberian diplomat Patrick Sawyer flew from Monrovia to Lagos
5/7 9 August
The Nigeria cases sparked fears around the world, and there have now been deaths in Spain and Saudi Arabia involving people who had travelled to West Africa. The numbers of cases continue to rise
6/7 17-20 September
In mid-September, Senegal confirmed its first case linked to the Ebola outbreak, a development the WHO described as a top priority emergency. Numbers of cases continued to grow exponentially in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as experts warned they could number one million by January if not contained
7/7 8 October
Two cases of Ebola have now been reported in the US and Europe - the first times the virus has been contracted among health workers outside Africa
Other travel agents have confirmed the news, which they said had arrived through official channels in Pyongyang and Beijing.
Nick Bonner of Koryo Tours, a travel group based in Beijing, said: "It is unknown how long this closure will be in effect, and due to the very changeable nature of DPRK policy, we are still hopeful we will be able to run the three tours we have scheduled for the remainder of 2014."
It was not immediately clear if the ban included members of the diplomatic or business community with ties to Pyongyang.
The World Health Organisation has estimated at least 4,877 people have died in the world's worst recorded outbreak of Ebola. Nearly 10,000 cases had been recorded by October 19, although the true toll could be three times higher.
Mr Bonner said: "In 2003, the country closed its borders due to the threat of SARS, despite not a single case being reported there."
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content