North Korea has warned its citizens to stay indoors to avoid a yellow dust storm which it claims could carry the coronavirus over from China.

The state-run KCTV network warned Wednesday that the storm would arrive Thursday. The Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the storm posed a “danger of invading malicious viruses.”

Yellow dust storms are common in north-eastern Asia. No evidence suggests they can carry COVID-19, which mainly spreads through close human contact.

North Korea claims to have zero cases of COVID-19, but analysts say this is almost impossible. 

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North Korea has told its citizens to stay indoors, warning that a yellow dust storm from China could carry COVID-19 over the border.

On Wednesday, state TV broadcast weather reports warned that the storm would arrive on Thursday, according to BBC Monitoring.

As of early Friday, it was not clear what had become of the storm. However, there is no scientific evidence that it is possible for the virus to be spread in such a way.

Related: How viruses like the coronavirus mutate

North Korea has throughout the pandemic claimed zero cases of COVID-19 and closed its already-tight borders in January. Experts say it’s more or less impossible that the nation really has no coronavirus cases. 

The Rodong Sinmun newspaper said Thursday there was a “danger of invading malicious viruses.” It said that COVID-19 can be “transmitted through air” meaning the storm poses a real danger.

“Thoroughly preventing damages from the yellow dust … is a pressing task to keep the quarantine front impenetrable,” the newspaper said.

It is true that the novel coronavirus can remain in the air for some time.

“Smaller droplets and particles … can remain suspended for many minutes to hours and travel far from the source on air currents,” the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said on October 5.

However it said that infection by this method was extremely unlikely.

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“There is no evidence of efficient spread (i.e., routine, rapid spread) to people far away or who enter a space hours after an infectious person was there.”

On Thursday, Russia’s embassy in North Korea wrote on Facebook that it had ordered all visitors to the country and its staff to wait out the dust storm inside.

Kim Jong Un attends a Politburo meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang, North Korea Thursday, July 2, 2020. Associated Press

“Due to the expected approximation of the dust storm, all foreigners in the DPRK are highly recommended from the morning to the end of the day 22 October, exclude the exit to the city and stay home, tightly closing the windows.”

The embassy also suggested that the storm could bring the coronavirus into North Korea.

“These measures are due to the fact that together with the particles of ‘yellow dust’ a new type coronavirus can be introduced into the territory of the republic,” the embassy said.

The South Korea-based news outlet NK News reported Thursday that “almost no citizens were seen on the streets of Pyongyang on Thursday.”

The yellow dust clouds referred to in the North Korean media is the result of winds whipping up sands from the Mongolian and Chinese deserts. The phenomenon happens as often as three times a year. 

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