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North Korean restaurant workers in China receive COVID-19 vaccines, report says

North Korean restaurant workers in a northeastern Chinese city were seen waiting to receive COVID-19 vaccines, according to a South Korean press report Wednesday. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
North Korean restaurant workers in a northeastern Chinese city were seen waiting to receive COVID-19 vaccines, according to a South Korean press report Wednesday. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 4 (UPI) -- North Korean restaurant workers in China are lining up to receive COVID-19 vaccines in a northeastern Chinese city, according to a South Korean press report.

A China-based source affiliated with a hospital in the city of Shenyang, Liaoning Province, said "dozens of North Koreans are waiting to be vaccinated" amid China's rollout of domestically developed vaccines, Yonhap reported Wednesday.

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"I know that workers at a North Korean restaurant in Shenyang received the second dose this time after completing the first dose last month," the source said.

"At the time of the first vaccination, there was a long line of employees wearing clothes that looked like restaurant uniforms."

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China offers the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines for free to Chinese citizens. Foreign nationals in the country must pay about $30 per dose.

A group of young women, likely North Koreans, were queuing outside a hospital in the Chinese city Wednesday, according to Yonhap's correspondent in China.

After receiving their vaccinations, the group boarded a van waiting for them outside the hospital, the report said.

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The predominantly female workforce serves as waitresses and also stage musical performances after meals. The restaurants were popular with South Korean tourists before the pandemic.

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North Korea-operated restaurants in China were a key source of foreign currency for the regime before international sanctions. All United Nations member states were required to repatriate North Korean guest workers by the end of 2019.

China, a close North Korea partner, may have circumvented sanctions by issuing training or student visas to workers, according to Yonhap.

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North Korea has not publicly confirmed receipt of COVID-19 vaccines after requesting to receive 1,704,000 doses of vaccines from the World Health Organization's COVAX facility earlier this year.

The WHO reported that there are "zero cases" of COVID-19 in North Korea as of July 22, citing data from the North Korean government.

Pyongyang also said it tested a total of 34,580 people since the start of the pandemic. In the most recent round of tests from July 16 to 22, 109 people had "influenza-like illness" or "severe acute respiratory infections," the WHO's most recent South-East Asia Region Weekly COVID-19 Situational Report said.

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