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N. Korea calls Wuhan virus fight ‘grave political matter’

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 on Wednesday ordered all-out prevention to fight the Wuhan coronavirus, describing such preventive efforts as a “grave political matter” that could determine the fate of the nation.

“All party organizations must regard efforts of stopping the spread of the new coronavirus as a grave political matter that is concerned with the fate of the nation and reinforce (relevant) political activities,” according to Pyongyang’s official newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun.

The paper also called on all party organizations to actively support the medical supervision of citizens and efforts in the area of diagnosis, as well as research and development to produce drugs to treat the new virus.

The sudden outbreak of the newly identified coronavirus in Wuhan, central China, has killed at least 132 people in China and affected almost 6,000 people across the world since December. While North Korea, which shares a border with China, has yet to report a confirmed case of its own, it has made all-out efforts to keep the virus out of the country, declaring “national emergency mode.”

Pyongyang has required all foreigners, including embassy and nongovernmental organization workers, entering the country via China or through Russia to be put into isolation for a month and undergo health examinations, according to Voice of America.

All flights between China and North Korea have reportedly been suspended. Flights were originally canceled until Feb. 10, but now are halted through the end of February.

Following five confirmed cases of the virus in border city Dandong, Liaoning province, the North Korean Consular Office has reportedly suspended issuing visas for foreigners to enter North Korea.

Pyongyang on Tuesday requested that South Korean officials working at their joint liaison office in Kaesong wear masks, according to the Unification Ministry. Seoul’s health officials began checking the temperature of workers heading to the North. Previously, authorities only checked their temperatures upon their return to the South.

Asked whether Seoul is planning to help North Korea in quarantine efforts, such as by sending masks or other medical supplies, the Unification Ministry said Wednesday that it will have to keep monitoring the situation in the South, as well as the North, before it can make any decisions.

South Korea on Tuesday decided to provide 2 million masks and 100,000 anti-contamination suits and goggles to Wuhan on a chartered flight to the region sent to repatriate around 700 South Korean nationals from the virus-hit city this week.  

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