February 03, 2020 13:44
North Korea could be suffering coronavirus infections despite closing its borders and banning all foreigners.
North Korean Health Ministry official Song In-bom told state TV, "No one should let their guard down simply because there has been no outbreak of new coronavirus in this country yet."
State media are calling attention to coronavirus every day, reporting on quarantine efforts in Wuhan and around the world.
"Health officials are stepping up sanitation and prevention efforts," the official Rodong Sinmun reported on Sunday. "They are trying to screen people with a fever or those who cough, and isolate them in a timely manner."
This suggests that there are at least some patients with suspected coronavirus. "It's possible that the regime is covering up the spread of coronavirus for its own security, or that it is unable to make accurate diagnoses due to its poor medical system," said Cho Han-bum at the Korea Institute for National Unification.
It is unclear whether health authorities have coronavirus reagents for diagnosis or any technology for virus testing.
Meanwhile, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a letter of sympathy and a donation to Chinese President Xi Jinping over the spread of the disease in China, state media reported last Saturday.
North Korea's Workers Party and people "worry about the outbreak of the coronavirus in China as if it was happening in their own country," Kim said in the letter.
The report did not reveal how much money he donated.
China's official People's Daily also reported on Kim's letter on its front page on Sunday. It said Xi thanked him for sympathy and support.
Messages from other leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin were lumped together on p. 2 even though their donations are likely to have been more substantial.
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