Aug. 19 (UPI) -- The United Nations Children's Fund says North Korea has closed a shipping route between Dalian, China and North Korea's port of Nampo.
The maritime route, used by UNICEF and other international agencies to deliver essential goods to the North, has been temporarily closed following official communication from Pyongyang. In late July, UNICEF met with North Korean public health officials to discuss the supply chain, UNICEF stated in its Situation Report No. 11 on COVID-19 and the East Asia Pacific region released this week.
"To this end, the country office is prioritizing COVID-19 supplies, vaccines and essential medicines to be processed for customs clearance and transshipment," the report reads.
U.S. experts on North Korea told Radio Free Asia the measures pose even greater challenges for international organizations sending aid supplies to the isolated country. Closures only exacerbate the public health and food security crisis in North Korea, they said.
UNICEF has supported countries with a "Back to School Campaign" amid COVID-19, but schools in North Korea remain closed for summer break, the agency said.
UNICEF said food assistance for vulnerable groups in North Korea has been ongoing and preventative measures against COVID-19 are being enforced.
"In [North Korea], provision of both preventative and curative healthcare and nutrition services continue to be delivered to targeted populations without interruption.
Infection Prevention and Control for health facilities "is in place, which includes a mandatory policy for all health workers to wear masks, practice triage and crowd management using service appointment, physical distancing and hand-washing stations placed at all entry points," the agency said.
North Korea could be enforcing health guidelines as the country continues to focus on flood recovery.
State-controlled news agency KCNA said Wednesday new North Korean Prime Minister Kim Tok Hun inspected the status of flood cleanup in North Hwanghae Province.
Kim Jong Un previously visited the same county.