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North Korea calls for vigilance, tighter coronavirus quarantine

In this photo released by Rodong Shinmun on Thursday, medical staffs are wearing mask at a hospital in Pyongyang. (Yonhap)
In this photo released by Rodong Shinmun on Thursday, medical staffs are wearing mask at a hospital in Pyongyang. (Yonhap)

North Korea on Friday called for heightened vigilance against the novel coronavirus pandemic, and to continuously step-up national quarantine measures, even when the country insists it is totally free of the virus. 

“Nothing is more precious than the safety of peoples’ lives,” said North’s state newspaper the Rodong Sinmun. “That is a major reason why national countermeasure against the global pandemic was discussed as the first agenda during the Politburo meeting.”

Earlier this week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided the session of the Politburo, the ruling Worker’s party’s top policymaking body, and resolved to take “strict national countermeasures to thoroughly block the infiltration of virus,” as well as adjusted policy plans. 

“Around the world, the damage caused by the novel coronavirus has expanded even more,” it said. “More efforts must be put into the national emergency quarantine campaign until the epidemic is fully under control and the virus stops spreading.”

The paper called for tightening control on land, sea and air borders to prevent possible virus influx, and take “preemptive” and “immediate” response against problems that arise. 

North Korea insists the country is untouched by the virus, despite sharing its borders with Asia’s two most heavily affected nations, China and South Korea. 

From early on, Pyongyang has taken some of the most draconian actions against the virus, by closing its borders in late January and halted business with neighboring China. It also ordered a quarantine on more than 2,000 people and over 300 foreigners due to coronavirus.

North Korean observers, however, cast doubt on Pyongyang’s claim, suspecting the regime might be covering up the outbreak. Health experts have warned that if COVID-19 spreads to the country, its weak public health system, coupled with poverty and malnutrition of the citizens, may not be able to cope, as it lacks proper medical supplies, personnel and infrastructure to deal with an outbreak.

By Ahn Sung-mi (