North Korea will keep its borders closed until a means to diagnose and cure the novel coronavirus is “completely” developed, the country’s Vice Minister of Public Health said in an interview with an influential pro-North Korean media outlet published on Thursday.
The comments, made by Kim Hyong Hun in a video interview with Choson Sinbo, detailed ongoing quarantine measures being taken in the country, while confirming that the DPRK will maintain an effective ban on travel until a cure for the virus — known officially as COVID-19 — is found.
“Currently we have been imposing measures to disapprove any and all foreigners from entering [the country] through the airports and ports at the border,” the vice minister told the outlet in a report filmed by their Pyongyang bureau.
“Until ways to diagnose and cure [the disease] are completely established, this measure will continue,” he said, emphasizing that “not a single novel coronavirus patient has entered” the DPRK.
According to the official, a “national emergency quarantine system” is being implemented in Pyongyang and across the country, while measures are also being taken to isolate and diagnose travelers who entered the country “before” those measures went into effect.
The North Korean government is also working to guarantee “electricity, water, and food” for quarantine zones, he underlined, following comments by an in-country diplomat last week that supplies were poor in one such venue in Rason.
The North is ready to “urgently respond” if and when the country sees a confirmed case of the coronavirus, Kim said, and the government has reportedly ordered researchers to develop a cure and better prevention methods for COVID-19.
While it appears that North Korea will keep its borders shut for the foreseeable future, efforts to prevent a possible spread of the infectious disease continue domestically.
Friday saw the externally-focused North Korean outlet Arirang Meari report that measures to put “illegal shell gathering and fishing” under stricter control are being taken in the city of Haeju, amid fears that COVID-19 may be able to be spread through “river, sea, fowls, and beasts.”
The country is also reported to have officially closed some “public amenities” such as the brand new Yangdok Hot Springs Resort in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
Quarantine efforts have impacted education in both Koreas, with Seoul and Pyongyang deciding to postpone the new school year in the face of a global spike in cases of the coronavirus.
According to the North Korean website DPRK Today on Thursday, school “vacation has been extended to prevent in advance the spread of COVID-19,” while residents of the school dormitories are reportedly receiving medical checkups.
Party daily the Rodong Sinmun on Friday referred to the extended vacation as a “national measure,” adding that education and childcare facilities “across the country” will be affected.
The article urged medical sector officials not to regard the quarantine work as something merely “operational,” and to take the threat of the virus seriously.
Meanwhile, state media for the past few weeks has been noticeably swift in reporting on South Korean and international news regarding the outbreak of the disease.
On Friday, the Rodong reported on an updated number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in neighboring South Korea, detailing the provinces and cities of residence in which the patients were diagnosed.
Another article in the party daily used the occasion to criticize alleged criminal behavior in South Korea, reporting that fighting “corona-related crimes” such as “reporting rivals [at work] as COVID-19 patients” was becoming an increasingly pressing issue.
Edited by James Fretwell and Oliver Hotham