Update at 1825 KST: a previous version of this article contained a quote by the FAO, which the organisation has since retracted, according to Yonhap News Agency. The quote has been removed.
North Korean authorities have expanded the length of time under which citizens and foreigners must remain in quarantine to 30 days, state media reported Thursday, as Pyongyang takes “emergency” measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The decision, approved by the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), sees the DPRK state double the pre-existing quarantine period, previously set at 15 days.
The move, party daily the Rodong Sinmun said, was intended to “thoroughly block the routes that the novel coronavirus can flow into [the country], and to guarantee the people’s life and national security.”
“According to the decision urgently adopted at the SPA Presidium, the isolation period in the territory of the DPRK shall be prolonged to 30 days for the time being,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
“All the institutions and fields of the state and foreigners staying in the DPRK should obey it unconditionally.”
The extended 30-day quarantine measure — reported to be part of broader “national emergency” steps that have been implemented since late January — likely comes in response to new findings in China that the incubation period of the virus is 24 days.
State media on Thursday reported on that discovery, contrasting it with previous studies suggesting the novel coronavirus, now officially known as COVID-19, has a 14-day incubation period.
The news also comes a day after cabinet premier Kim Jae Ryong became the first high-level DPRK official to appear in public wearing a protective face mask, in a visit to quarantine workers in which he described anti-viral work as a matter of “national security.”
Meanwhile, multiple North Korean-linked news outlets on Thursday continued to report on “special measures” being taken to guarantee the production of goods and propaganda needed to help protect the country from the spread of COVID-19.
Tongil Voice, an externally-focused media outlet, claimed on Thursday that Rakrang Ponhwa Clothing Factory had produced “around 45,000 masks from February 3 to 4.”
“Diverse types of masks that meet hygienic requirements made with multiple layers — and suited to people’s diverse preferences… are piling up,” it added.
Hospitals in South Phyongan Province are being “sterilized more than three times a day” using multiple types of disinfectants, the Arirang Meari, another outlet aimed at international audiences, reported on Thursday.
“Thorough medical surveillance is being done on foreign visitors, cold patients, and patients with fever.”
A Rodong Sinmun article on Thursday also claimed that production at the North Phyongan Province Koryo Medicine Production Management Office has doubled in recent days, “in order to urgently produce and guarantee disinfectants.”
Other articles in the Meari said that “enormous monetary and human resources are being mobilized” to prevent the spread of the virus via “sky, land, or sea,” and that the water quality of North Korean rivers — reviewed as part of the anti-viral measures — “met standards.”
But reports also suggested citizens are being warned against only relying on the central government for assistance in fighting the virus, stressing the importance of “making the workers of all sectors and units have the highest awareness” of the situation.
“The work to prevent novel coronavirus infection disease cannot expect results only through the power of the emergency quarantine command or the public health officials,” a Meari article said on Thursday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) this week reported, citing DPRK authorities, that no cases of coronavirus had been detected in the country’s territory.
Some have cast doubt on those claims, with reports in South Korean media last week suggesting that several North Koreans had been found to be infected with the virus.
Edited by Oliver Hotham