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N. Korea's paper urges antivirus efforts in typhoon-hit areas


North Korea's official newspaper called Monday for stepped-up antivirus efforts in typhoon-hit areas as a large number of people have been mobilized for recovery efforts.

North Korea has been scrambling to restore areas hit hard by three consecutive typhoons in recent weeks that flooded houses, streets and rice-producing regions.

State media earlier said tens of thousands of people, including elite party members in Pyongyang, have been mobilized for recovery efforts, spawning risks that they could spread the coronavirus.

"The antivirus fight is another important front line on which top priority should be placed, along with recovery from natural disasters," the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers' Party, said.

"Body temperature taking and hand sanitization have been strictly enforced on workers mobilized for construction and all are required to wear masks while working in accordance with regulations," the paper added.

The paper, in particular, warned against the possibility of an outbreak along the country's coastlines through virus-contaminated trash and other items washed upon the shore.

"Due to a large amount of waste washed upon rivers and seashores caused by typhoons and flooding, the risk has increased markedly (for an outbreak of the coronavirus)," the paper said.

"Special efforts are being made to strengthen the control on coastlines."

North Korea has claimed to have no coronavirus infections, but it has been swift in closing its border and has toughened quarantine criteria since early this year.

Outside experts, however, question the North's virus-free claim, citing its poor medical infrastructure and long border with China, an earlier epicenter of COVID-19.

In a separate article, the paper said that minimizing damage to crops is a "very important political task" closely related to the ruling party's authority and the country's dignity.

The paper said that every moment is critical in making the country's yearlong efforts fruitful or not as the harvest season is coming closer, adding that a sufficient stockpile of rice and food could help the push for self-reliance and self-prosperity against its enemies.

The recent back-to-back typhoons and flooding affecting the farming sector are feared to aggravate the country's food shortage problem as it is already being squeezed by its protracted border closure due to the pandemic.

Last week, leader Kim Jong-un visited a flood-hit village in the North's southwestern province known as a major rice-producing region and ordered "redoubled efforts to minimize the damage to the crops and increase the yield in a consistent and responsible way."

This marked his second visit to the area in a month. Earlier, state media reported that torrential rains left more than 900 homes flooded or destroyed and 600 hectares of rice fields inundated there. (Yonhap)