North Korea is said to withdraw from the upcoming Tokyo Olympics due to fear that its athletes may contract coronavirus. North Korean officials declared that the nation would not participate in this summer’s Games in order to “shield players from the world public health crisis triggered by Covid-19,” according to a study published Tuesday on DPRK Sports, a state media outlet focusing on sports affairs. The DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Olympic Committee made the decision after a video conference meeting with committee representatives and sports officials on March 25 in Pyongyang, according to DPRK Sports. The Games are set to take place from July 23 to August 8 this year. From August 24 to September 5, the Paralympics will be held. This is the first time North Korea has been absent from the Olympics since boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The leaders of the two Koreas decided in 2018 to seek to co-host the Olympic Games in 2032, but inter-Korean talks on the subject ceased in 2019. The Olympics were initially planned for 2020, but due to the pandemic, organizers were forced to postpone the event for the first time in the event’s history.

To stop an outbreak of coronavirus cases, North Korea agreed to break almost all ties with the outside world in 2020. While experts dispute Pyongyang’s assertion that the country has not seen a single case of Covid-19, the country has not confirmed a major outbreak and there have been no signs that one has occurred. According to the Russian Embassy in Pyotrk, a significant number of foreign diplomats and humanitarian workers have also left the country in recent months, citing food shortages and serious restrictions on everyday life.