SEOUL: North Korean state media reported on Sunday that the authorities have imposed a lockdown on the border metropolis of Kaesong after discovering the nation’s “first suspected coronavirus case”.
Chief Kim Jong Un convened an emergency politburo assembly on Saturday to implement a “maximum emergency system and issue a top-class alert” to include the virus, official information company KCNA mentioned.
If confirmed, it could be the primary formally recognised case of COVID-19 in North Korea, the place medical infrastructure is seen as woefully insufficient to cope with any epidemic.
KCNA mentioned a defector who had left for South Korea three years in the past returned on July 19 after “illegally crossing” the closely fortified border dividing the 2 international locations.
However there have been no stories within the South of anybody leaving via what is likely one of the world’s most safe borders, replete with minefields and guard posts.
Pyongyang beforehand insisted that not a single case of the coronavirus had been seen within the North regardless of the sickness having swept the globe, and the nation’s borders stay closed.
The affected person was present in Kaesong Metropolis, which borders South Korea, and “was put under strict quarantine”, as would any shut contacts, KCNA mentioned.
It was a “dangerous situation… that may lead to a deadly and destructive disaster”, the media outlet added.
Kim was quoted as saying “the vicious virus could be said to have entered the country”, and officers on Friday took the “preemptive measure of totally blocking Kaesong City”.
Nuclear-armed North Korea closed its borders in late January because the virus unfold in neighbouring China.
It imposed powerful restrictions that put 1000’s of individuals into isolation, however analysts say the remoted state is unlikely to have averted the contagion.
China and North Korea share a 1,400-kilometre (880-mile) border that’s particularly porous throughout the winter, when frozen rivers permit folks to cross extra simply out and in of the 2 international locations.
Dozens of North Koreans cross the border to smuggle black market items day by day and analysts have mentioned they might have carried the virus into the remoted nation earlier than the borders have been closed.
“There’s no question the coronavirus in the North is imported from China,” mentioned Go Myong-hyun, an analyst on the Asan Institute for Coverage Research, noting the heavy border visitors and China’s excessive whole variety of circumstances.
However Pyongyang was singling out the case from the South to focus on defectors as “dangerous beings”, Go mentioned, because the North ramps up stress towards Seoul.
South Korea is at the moment recording round 40 to 60 new infections a day, with most of them imported circumstances.
Earlier this month Kim warned towards any “hasty” leisure of anti-coronavirus measures, indicating the nation would maintain its borders closed for the foreseeable future.
Greater than 30,000 North Korean civilians have fled their homeland because the peninsula was divided on the finish of the 1950-53 Korean Battle.
Most flee throughout the porous frontier with China and it is extremely uncommon for them to cross the closely guarded inter-Korean border.
However the variety of escapees has dwindled in latest months — with simply 12 new arrivals from April to June in comparison with 320 in the identical interval final yr — as a consequence of border closures over the virus, Seoul officers mentioned.