03/05/2020, 14.14
NORTH KOREA
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Pyongyang's obsession with coronavirus

Sanitization, mass control and quarantine. North Koreans threaten the use of weapons to block the border with China. End of isolation for diplomatic personnel in the country.

Pyongyang (AsiaNews) - Freight wagons; stations; bus interiors and buildings: images of healthcare workers disinfecting all places where the infamous Wuhan coronavirus (Covid-19) can nest are now also common in North Korea.

These are scenes of daily frenzy, as elsewhere in the world, with the population subjected to systematic temperature controls. Rodong Sinmun urges the North Korean people to disregard "scientifically unfounded information". The official press organ of the Workers' Party, in power in the country, reminds that protective masks should not be worn too tight, as this can cause breathing problems. The regime reminds people not to overuse indoor disinfectants, and admits that antiviral drugs may be useless against Covid-19.

People found infected must be isolated within six hours of diagnosis. For those who show the first symptoms of the disease, the quarantine must start within 24 hours. The quarantine can also take place inside homes.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wrote a personal letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, expressing his support for Seoul's efforts to counter the spread of the virus.

While in South Korea there have been over 6 thousand cases of contagion, there is no data available for the situation in the North. Given the proximity to China, the epicenter of the infection, many observers doubt that Pyongyang is telling the truth. The scarcity of medical resources and infrastructures in the country increase these perplexities. An epidemic crisis would be difficult for the regime to manage, which finds itself isolated from the international community because of its controversial nuclear program.

The North Koreans have imposed restrictions on trade with China, effectively closing the border with their neighbor. According to the Daily NK, the North Korean ministry of state security has officially complained to the Chinese about their little help in controlling the common border. Pyongyang even went so far as to threaten the use of weapons to block the passage of people and goods to and from the Chinese territory.

The regime has introduced strict quarantine measures for foreigners entering the country. However, the North Korean authorities put an end to the one-month isolation imposed on diplomatic staff and representatives of international organizations in the country. The Russian embassy confirmed that the quarantine ended on March 2.

Photo: Yonhap

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