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North Korea on high alert to contain Wuhan coronavirus


North Korea`s Korea Central TV shows preventive measures for Wuhan coronavirus. (Yonhap)
North Korea`s Korea Central TV shows preventive measures for Wuhan coronavirus. (Yonhap)

North Korea is on high alert to contain the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus and is stepping up quarantine efforts, as the deadly respiratory virus that originated in China continues to spread across Asia and the world.

Pyongyang’s official newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun on Tuesday said the government has taken emergency measures to prevent the virus from spreading in the country, as it shares a border with China. The newly identified respiratory virus has killed over 100 people in mainland China as of Tuesday, and infected more than 4,000 people around the world since it first emerged in the city of Wuhan in December.

North Korea, however, has yet to report a confirmed case of its own.

According to the report, health authorities have been dispatched to all regions across North Korea to promote public hygiene, while the government has stepped up quarantine efforts at borders, ports and airports to prevent “the virus from entering the country.”

Health authorities have been medically monitoring those who traveled abroad. They have also prepared a quarantine system, if a suspected case is detected.

The doctors are visiting patients with fever and those who are suffering from pneumonia under their jurisdiction to check for the coronavirus infection, it added. North Korea is also putting all-out efforts to expand production of anti-viral drugs.

“With the devoted efforts of health personnel, we are setting up thorough quarantine measures to prevent this new coronavirus from entering the country,” it reported.

The paper also reported on the number of confirmed cases and death toll of the global outbreak. It reported that South Korea had confirmed an additional case.

Following the outbreak, North Korea has temporarily closed its borders to all foreign tourists, as most its tourists are Chinese or have traveled via China.

The ministry said it is closely monitoring the situation in North Korea as well, as Seoul is enhancing quarantine efforts to prevent further spread of the illness here. South Korea confirmed its fourth case of the Wuhan coronavirus, amid mounting fears about further spread of the epidemic.

Pyongyang on Tuesday requested South Korean officials working at their joint liaison office in Kaesong to wear masks, according to the ministry. Seoul’s health officials began checking the temperature of workers heading to the North. Previously, authorities just checked their temperatures when they returned to the South. They are also providing workers with masks and hand sanitizers.

“As for now, chances of the Wuhan coronavirus spreading from human-to-human interaction between the two Koreas seem low,” a ministry official said. “But we will closely monitor the situation here as well as in the North.”

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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