The struggle to prevent the spread of the Chinese coronavirus is one of “national survival” for North Korea, the official organ of the country’s ruling party said Wednesday, calling on all citizens to be “actively involved” in efforts to stem the illness.
In an article that comes a day after the DPRK imposed a one-month quarantine on all foreigners visiting from China, the Rodong Sinmun reported that the “fight” to prevent the spread of the virus was being driven ahead “strongly.”
The coronavirus has prompted global concern and is reported to have now infected 1,459 people, though North Korea is yet to report any cases in its territory.
“This new type of coronavirus infection, which is spreading around the world threatening people’s health and life, should never enter our country,” Wednesday’s article said.
“All party organizations should consider the project to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus infection as an important political issue related to national survival,” it continued.
North Korea has set up an “emergency quarantine command” to deal with the threat posed by the virus, the article reported, urging all party officials to work with that body and other medical officials in “medical monitoring and diagnosis of residents.”
“Tasks [related to] preventing the spread of the new coronavirus infection should be strictly executed… and minor phenomenon or factors that go against it should not be ignored and thoroughly overcome,” the Rodong Sinmun stressed.
“All members of society should actively participate in tasks to keep the new coronavirus infection from entering our country.”
The newspaper also recommended steps citizens could take to protect themselves from infection.
“When people go outside, they should protect personal hygiene and food hygiene by making wearing masks a habit and often washing their hands, etc., and avoid contact with wild animals and improve their resistance by doing good physical training,” the article said.
State media on Tuesday reported that the country would take “high-intensity” steps to fight the spread of the virus, setting up quarantines at the country’s borders, ports, and airports and isolating those believed to have been exposed to the illness.
Embassies in Pyongyang that same day announced that DPRK authorities had imposed strict new rules on travel into and out of the country, requiring all foreign visitors coming in from China to undergo a month-long quarantine.
The country has also imposed a blanket ban on all international tourists entering its territory and temporarily “completely forbidden” resident foreigners from traveling to China.
Flights to and from the North from China are also being limited, with the Russian embassy in the DPRK yesterday reporting that Air China’s Pyongyang office had informed them that “all flights” planned for the month of February had been canceled.
The North has also been reported to have taken precautions at the inter-Korean liaison office at Kaesong, where officials from the two Koreas share a work space.
An official from South Korea’s unification ministry said Tuesday that the North was now asking ROK officials at the office to wear masks, as well as subjected them to screenings for symptoms of the virus before allowing them to cross the border.
Wednesday’s article further underlined just how seriously Pyongyang is taking the potential for the virus to spread within its territory — and the extent to which the DPRK sees a potential epidemic as a threat to social stability.
“We should make sure that the new coronavirus infection is never introduced to our country and actively contribute to the construction of a strong socialist nation with a healthy body,” it stated.
James Fretwell contributed editing and translation assistance