North Korea’s Nampho port has stepped-up quarantine measures, party daily the Rodong Sinmun reported on Friday, as the country seeks to strengthen efforts to prevent an outbreak of the novel coronavirus currently sweeping East Asia.
“Marine transport sector and examination and quarantine unit officials at Nampho port, Sohae Lockgate Office, and Nampho Export-Import Products Inspection and Quarantine Office are supervising firmly, executing their quarantine projects strongly,” the article said.
“Officials at the port of Nampho are paying a keen interest in the sterilization projects on the pier, ships, and harbor facilities.”
Nampho’s Export-Import Products Inspection and Quarantine Office, it continued, is “thoroughly disinfecting the ships that sailed into the harbor,” with the quarantine workers reported to be wearing self-protective equipment.
“Travelers are limited and all citizens are increasingly required to wear masks at all times when they are stepping outdoors,” it explained.
But while state media implied that traffic into the Nampho port continues despite the increased security, North Korean maritime traffic appears to have been affected by the increased quarantine measures, analysis by NK News‘s sister site NK Pro indicates.
“Nampho port appears to have no capacity anymore or it is under lockdown because of the quarantine and disinfection,” Martin Weiser, a researcher focusing on North Korean open-source data, told NK News on Friday.
Another expert said that, while still inconclusive, data on recent ship movements may indicate that DPRK-flagged vessels that have recently traveled to China were making “unusual adjustments to their itinerary within days of the reported quarantine.”
“Between 30 January and 6 February 2020, there were 12 DPRK-flagged vessels that were active in Northeast Asia,” Lucas Kuo of the Center for Advanced Defense Studies (C4ADS) said.
“According to AIS data, at least three out of the 12 DPRK-flagged vessels reported a voyage between an international port and North Korea,” he continued. “Of the three DPRK-flagged vessels, two–the TAE YANG (IMO 830692) and KUM GANG SAN (IMO 8672691)–reported origins in China and new destinations in North Korea.”
“Both vessels reported a North Korean port–Hungnam for TAE YANG and Haeju for KUM GANG SAN–that they have never reported in their respective AIS transmission histories.”
However, according to AIS data, at least four out of the 12 vessels reported a voyage from one North Korean port to another, indicating that those ships making domestic voyages are still able to enter and exit those ports, Kuo added.
Meanwhile, North Korean state media has in recent days increasingly claimed that domestically-produced medicine can help strengthen citizens’ immune systems against the coronavirus and that Pyongyang is working on a cure.
Externally-focused outlet the Arirang Meari said on Friday that scientists at the DPRK’s Medical Research Institute are working on “research projects to develop medicine for preventing and curing novel coronavirus infection.”
Scientists are working “day and night to determine the genome sequence of the virus,” it continued, and have “decided on the direction of research on developing potions for preventing this infectious disease, based on scientific analysis of the data on patients dead from the global infection of novel coronavirus.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham