North Korea set to ban foreign tourists to stop coronavirus spread

A quarantine inspection station at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia. (AP)

North Korea is set to ban tourists from entering the country in an effort to stop its citizens becoming infected with the deadly new coronavirus from China.

A foreign tour operator said on Tuesday it had been told the country would be closing its borders to tourists from other countries to stop the disease spreading.

The vast majority of tourists to North Korea come from China, Pyongyang's main supporter.

Young Pioneer Tours, an adventure travel company based in China, announced the border closure in a statement on Tuesday.

The disease has already infected several hundred people in China. (Getty)

"I have confirmed the DPRK will temporarily suspend all foreign tourists from entering North Korea until they feel the coronavirus is well under control," Rowan Beard, of Young Pioneer Tours, said.

Further details are yet to be confirmed by the company's travel partners in North Korea, the Young Pioneer Tours statement said.

(PA Graphics)

A manager at another foreign tour company said they too had been told of the move, but that it was not yet clear who would be affected by such a policy, with more details expected on Wednesday.

Fears are growing over the virus, which could be spread through human contact, with millions of Asians travelling for the Lunar New Year holiday this week.

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In China, the number of confirmed cases rose to 291 on Monday.

Tourism is one of the last major ways that North Korea can legally earn foreign cash, as international sanctions restrict many other forms of business with the politically isolated country.

North Korea is estimated to earn millions of dollars from a steady flow of Chinese tourists.

South Korean budget airline T'way Air said on Tuesday it had postponed the scheduled launch of a new route to Wuhan because of concern over the spread of the new coronavirus.