North Korea calls for stronger coronavirus measures, no mention of reported cases

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North Korea called for stronger measures against the rapidly spreading coronavirus pandemic at a meeting presided by leader Kim Jong Un, state media reported Sunday, without acknowledging whether the country had reported any infections.

The already isolated, nuclear-armed North quickly shut down its borders after the virus was first detected in neighboring China in January, and imposed strict containment measures.

Officials in Pyongyang and its state media have repeatedly insisted that the North remains totally free of the virus, but Sunday’s report did not make that assertion.

The coronavirus epidemic – which has infected more than 1.7 million worldwide – had become “a great disaster threatening the whole mankind, regardless of borders and continents”, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

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“Such environment can become a condition creating some obstacles to our struggle and progress,” it said, adding Pyongyang maintained “very stable anti-epidemic situation.”

The meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea on Saturday discussed changing policy tasks in the wake of the epidemic, KCNA reported, as officials called for strict and thorough check of the infiltration of the virus.

A joint resolution was adopted “on more thoroughly taking national measures for protecting the life and safety of our people to cope with the worldwide epidemic disease,” it added.

Experts have said North Korea is particularly vulnerable to the virus because of its weak healthcare system, and defectors have accused Pyongyang of covering up an outbreak.

As part of its anti-virus efforts, North Korea put thousands of its own people and hundreds of foreigners – including diplomats – into isolation and mounted disinfection drives.

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