North Korea has ordered a five-day lockdown in the capital over “respiratory illness”, a report said Wednesday, in what appears to be the first citywide restrictions since the country declared victory over Covid-19 in August 2022.

Residents of Pyongyang have been ordered to stay in their homes from Wednesday to Sunday and must submit to multiple temperature checks each day, Seoul-based specialist site NK News reported, citing a government notice.

The notice did not mention Covid but said that the illnesses currently spreading in the capital included the common cold, the report said.

The government order comes a day after NK News, citing sources in Pyongyang, reported that people in the city appeared to be stocking up on goods in anticipation of a lockdown.

It is unclear if other areas have imposed similar lockdowns and state media has not announced any new measures.

Experts suggested that North Korea’s largest city is likely dealing with the re-emergence of Covid.

“Covid is disappearing and reappearing depending on the temperature, not just in North Korea but around the world,” said Go Myong-hyun, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

The Korean peninsula is currently in the grip of what weather forecasters have described as a Siberian cold snap, with temperatures in Pyongyang dropping as low as -22 degrees Celsius (-7.6 Fahrenheit).

“It was quite premature for North Korea to celebrate its victory over the virus… with the drop in temperature, Covid has re-emerged,” Go told AFP.

“North Korea must have prepared for it to some extent, but it seems that the virus reappeared a little sooner than they thought.”