Reports of North Korean citizens going maskless in large groups indicate the country has rolled back its intense COVID-19 restrictions.

South Korean analysts are speculating that the hermit nation has ended its blanket mask requirements as of the beginning of July.

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North Koreans gesture during a mass rally on the 73rd anniversary of the Korean War, in Pyongyang, June 25, 2023.

“Photos carried by the Rodong Sinmun show that the wearing of face masks has notably declined since July 3. They are only worn in extremely rare cases,” a spokesperson for South Korea’s Unification Ministry told the press.

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Group photos released by North Korean state media as recently as the end of June have shown mandatory masking.

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Pictures from an anti-American rally on June 25 show thousands of citizens masked during political demonstrations.

Unification Ministry officials suspect the decision was made for practical, economic reasons.

“After carrying out intensive COVID-19 measures for nearly 3 1/2 years, it can be presumed there is a realistic need to ease this,” the official said.

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