North Korea places Kaesong metropolis in lockdown over suspected outbreak

Seoul, July 26

North Korean chief Kim Jong Un positioned town of Kaesong close to the border with South Korea beneath whole lockdown after an individual was discovered with suspected COVID-19 signs, saying he believes “the vicious virus” could have entered the nation, state media reported Sunday.

If the individual is formally declared a virus affected person, she or he can be the North’s first confirmed coronavirus case.

North Korea has steadfastly mentioned it has no single virus case on its territory, a declare questioned by exterior specialists.

The lockdown was declared Friday afternoon. The Korean Central News Agency mentioned the suspected case is a runaway who had fled to South Korea years in the past earlier than illegally crossing the border into the North early final week.

KCNA mentioned respiratory secretion and blood exams confirmed the individual “is suspected to have been infected” with the virus.

It mentioned the suspected case and others who had been in touch in addition to those that have been to Kaesong within the final 5 days had been positioned beneath quarantine.

Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” North Korea earlier this 12 months shut down practically all cross-border site visitors, banned international vacationers and mobilized well being employees to quarantine anybody with signs.

But the Kaesong lockdown is the primary such recognized measure taken in a North Korean metropolis to stem the pandemic.

Foreign specialists say a coronavirus outbreak in North Korea might trigger dire penalties due to its poor public well being care infrastructure and power lack of medical provides.

Kaesong, a metropolis with an estimated 2,00,000 folks, is situated simply north of the closely fortified land border with South Korea. It as soon as hosted the Koreas’ collectively run industrial advanced, which stays stalled since 2016 amid nuclear tensions.

Last month, North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison workplace in Kaesong to protest a marketing campaign by South Korean activists who’ve been sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets throughout the border.

During an emergency Politburo assembly Saturday, Kim additionally declared a state of emergency within the Kaesong space and “clarified the determination of the Party Central Committee to shift from the state emergency anti-epidemic system to the maximum emergency system and issue a top-class alert,” KCNA mentioned.

It quoted Kim as saying that there was “a critical situation in which the vicious virus could be said to have entered the country.”              

Kim mentioned he took “the preemptive measure of totally blocking Kaesong City and isolating each district and region from the other within July 24 afternoon just after receiving the report on it,” in accordance with KCNA.

The Politburo assembly additionally mentioned the “loose guard performance” on the border space the place the suspected case crossed over to North Korea.

KCNA mentioned that Kim and different leaders had been briefed on the outcomes of an intensive investigation of a navy unit accountable for the border crossing case and mentioned administering “a severe punishment.”             

More than 33,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea over the previous 20 years to keep away from poverty and political suppression, principally through the lengthy, porous border with China.

Buy it’s uncommon for North Korean refugees to return to their homeland by crossing the mine-strewn inter-Korean border.

The South Korean authorities has no rapid feedback on the North Korean announcement.

“Blaming an alleged return defector for bringing COVID-19 into the country is likely intended to shift blame for spread of the virus away from China and Pyongyang and on to Seoul,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, mentioned.

“This may also be a tactic for ratcheting up diplomatic pressure on (South Korea) and trying to further dissuade North Koreans from defecting to the South,” he mentioned. — AP

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