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N. Korea has zero confirmed cases of COVID-19: WHO

(123rf)
(123rf)

Over 1,100 North Koreans were tested for COVID-19 by early July, and all of them turned out negative, an official of the World Health Organization said Monday.

A total of 1,117 people got tested for the novel coronavirus as of July 9, Edwin Salvador, WHO representative to North Korea, said in an interview with Radio Free Asia.

As of now, 610 North Korean nationals are in quarantine, and all of them are laborers working at the seaport in Nampo or along the land border between the North’s Sinuiju and China’s Dandong, according to Salvador.

All the workers who are in contact with goods going into North Korea have been quarantined, he added.

A total of 341 people have been quarantined from July 2 through July 9, marking a sharp increase from 165 people isolated from the week before, the US broadcaster said.

The North Korean authorities are enforcing a social distancing policy, which includes mandatory wearing of masks in public spaces and an all-out ban of mass events and gatherings, Salvador said.

All educational institutions including kindergartens are in summer vacation which continue for two months or longer.

North Korea claims there have been no deaths caused by COVID-19 so far.

Experts are skeptical, however, with some speculating that more than 500 people have died in the reclusive state between May and June as the pandemic worsened.

Pyongyang’s claim that it has had no COVID-19 related deaths appears to be part of domestic propaganda aimed at easing North Koreans’ anxiety, a South Korean national security official told Yonhap News Agency.

In an extended meeting of the North’s Workers’ Party politburo on July 2, the country’s leader Kim Jong-un repeatedly stressed stronger measures to contain COVID-19, using expressions like “fatal crisis” and “maximum vigilance.”

The UN Security Council sanctions committee on North Korea recently accepted a request from the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Research Center for an exemption from sanctions to import items into North Korea in order to engage in humanitarian activities for emergency relief towards COVID-19 prevention and control in North Pyongan Province.

According to a letter on the UNSC website, the nongovernmental organization filed a request on July 15 for an exemption from a UNSC sanctions resolution to supply thermal imaging cameras to public facilities including schools, ports, hospitals in western province bordering China, to identify cases of community-based infections, and received approval on July 17.

Thermal imaging cameras are one of the items banned from importing into North Korea under a UNSC resolution announced in 2017.

The NGO said it will procure thermal imaging cameras produced by a company based in Hangzhou, China, and transport them to North Korea.

The exemption is valid for the next six months until Jan. 17, 2021.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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