No reason to doubt North Korea’s claims to be coronavirus-free, ambassador says
Russia’s ambassador to North Korea said he has no reason to doubt Pyongyang’s repeated insistence of there being no detected cases of novel coronavirus yet, a wide-ranging interview published on Wednesday showed.
Speaking with Russian news agency Interfax, ambassador Alexander Matsegora said that while one fellow European diplomat in the DPRK capital “doubted” Pyongyang’s claims to be COVID-19 free, he believed that North Korea’s “resolute and strict” steps have prevented the spread of the virus.
Citing Pyongyang’s effective closure of its borders in late January and widespread quarantine and lockdown precautions, Matsegora also argued that the DPRK would have no reason to hide a potential outbreak of the virus.
“Pyongyang does not hesitate to give the WHO and international humanitarian organizations comprehensive information about such diseases as tuberculosis or dysentery (and receives substantial assistance for their treatment),” he said.
“How does the coronavirus differ in this sense? As for panic, they are not afraid of it, because the local society is monolithic and highly disciplined,” he continued. “It is, by the way, much more stress-resistant than any Western society.”
“Given the circumstances, I am inclined to trust what is reported about the lack of infection in the DPRK.”
North Korea this week reiterated that it has detected no cases of COVID-19 in its territory in a letter to the World Health Assembly (WHA) which cited Kim Jong Un’s leadership as the reason for the success.
Multiple experts have cast doubt on those claims, however, with the country’s health officials last month saying that only 740 people had been tested for the illness. In contrast, South Korea has as of this week tested 776,433 people.
North Korea has also in recent weeks begun to relax some previous restrictions imposed when fears over COVID-19 were at their peak, ambassador Matsegora was quoted as having said on Wednesday.
“School children and students were placed in complete isolation in mid-February, which began to weaken only in early May,” he told Interfax.
“Now there are some other easings in the country, we were allowed to visit the market and all major shopping centers, [and the DPRK] gradually began to import” he continued. “But there is no international passenger traffic, masks and widespread disinfection remain.”
Those restrictions, he said, meant that a number of North Korean workers in Russia — required by UN sanctions to be repatriated in December last year — remained in the country.
Ambassador Matsegora also reported that Russia has resumed shipments of oil products to the DPRK, he said, following a short pause prompted by COVID-19 restrictions on trade into and out of the country.
“After a short pause caused by antiviral measures, the export of petroleum products has already resumed in the amount of 2-3 thousand tons per month,” he explained. “That is, approximately at the level of last year.”
Russia's ambassador to North Korea said he has no reason to doubt Pyongyang's repeated insistence of there being no detected cases of novel coronavirus yet, a wide-ranging interview published on Wednesday showed.
Speaking with Russian news agency Interfax, ambassador Alexander Matsegora said that while one fellow European diplomat in the DPRK capital "doubted" Pyongyang's claims to be COVID-19 free, he believed that North Korea's "resolute and strict" steps have prevented the spread of the virus.