Ebola, Sierra Leone, Dec. 19, 2014
Health workers are pictured in protective gear before entering a quarantine zone at a Red Cross facility in the town of Koidu in the Kono district of eastern Sierra Leone, Dec. 19, 2014. Reuters/Baz Ratner

The Ebola virus disease outbreak has claimed at least 7,373 lives, according to the latest figures of the World Health Organization, but North Korea, with some of the strictest Ebola-control measures outside West Africa, may soon lift its travel restrictions associated with the virus, the Associated Press reported.

Two leading travel agencies that specialize in the North Korea market told AP the travel restrictions will be lifted sometime between January and April, adding that the Pyongyang Marathon in April is “a definite go.” North Korea has been on lockdown since October in an effort to keep out the Ebola virus. Visas for nonessential travel have been suspended, and all foreigners allowed entry are technically subject to quarantine under medical observation for 21 days.

However, WHO’s most recent data showed the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has worsened. Almost 500 new fatalities caused by the disease have been added to it count since Wednesday in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone -- the three most-affected countries in Africa. Ebola cases have been recorded in the U.S., Germany, Spain, Norway, France and the U.K., but West African countries have been hit the hardest. The total number of Ebola cases in the three worst-stricken countries is now estimated at 19,031, compared with 18,569 Wednesday, WHO reported.

China has yet to report a confirmed case of the Ebola virus. However, Peter Piot, the director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a co-discoverer of Ebola hemorrhagic fever, said it’s only a matter of time before before the disease crosses China’s borders.

“Widespread screening [of arrivals] in airports is not that effective, to be honest ... the most cost-effective method is to screen people before they take the plane,” Piot said at a symposium at the University of Hong Kong, according to the South China Morning Post. “In Africa, there are many Chinese working there, so that could be a risk for China in general, and I assume that one day [an outbreak of Ebola in China] will happen,” he said.

North Korea has become a popular vacation spot for Chinese travelers in recent years. Tens of thousands of Chinese tourists visit the nation each year, a Beijing-based major travel agency told AP. However, the news agency reported that the Ebola travel restrictions have taken a toll on North Korea’s economy.