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Tighter Restrictions in North Korea as Covid-19 Cases Detected

July 28, 2020, 05.04 PM

SEOUL, – North Korea has tightened measures against the Covid-19 virus in what could be the country’s first publicly confirmed coronavirus case.

As part of tougher restrictions, North Korea locked down the town of Kaesong to contain the spread of the novel virus.

The country’s KCNA state news agency shared that test kits, personal protective gear, and medical equipment were rapidly supplied.

Strict quarantine rules and the screening of districts have also been introduced.

The measures were put in place after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared an emergency on Sunday.

A returnee from South Korea is suspected to have carried the Covid-19 virus that prompted Kim Jong Un’s emergency calls.

North Korea had reported testing 1,211 people for the virus as of July 16 with all returning negative results, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement sent to Reuters on Monday. The report said 696 nationals were under quarantine.

Primers and probes for machines capable of facilitating 1,000 tests have arrived in North Korea, WHO said.

There are 15 laboratories designated to test Covid-19 in the country.

North Korea has a limited healthcare system with hospitals that lack adequate electricity, medicine, and water.

It has long depended on the WHO to procure drugs as sanctions against the country made imports difficult.

In the past months, it received test kits and protective gear from the WHO and countries including Russia, but some of these were held up at the border because of the country's own restrictions.

North Korea said earlier this month it has started early clinical trials on a vaccine for the virus, but experts are skeptical.

The country lacks the technology or laboratories to develop Covid-19 vaccines, said Choi Jung-hun, a former North Korean doctor who defected to the South in 2012.

"North Korea wasn't even capable of testing people just until three or four months ago," said Choi, now a researcher at Korea University.

"It is groundless for them to claim they are enrolling participants for human trials of Covid-19 vaccines," Choi said.

(Writers: Sangmi Cha, Stephanie Nebehay | Editor: Sam Holmes) 


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