Asia - Pacific, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

N.Korea imposes 'intensified' measures to stem COVID-19

Pyongyang bars use of public transport without masks as S.Korea grapples with cluster infections

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 19.03.2020
N.Korea imposes 'intensified' measures to stem COVID-19


North Korea announced on Thursday that it has imposed "intensified" measures to stem the spread of novel coronavirus. 

Pyongyang has so far claimed that the virus -- declared as a global pandemic by World Health organization -- has not affected the country, though this has not yet been by an independent source.

The state-run daily Rodong Sinmun reported that factories and workplaces throughout the country were "more zealous and practical in their hygienic and anti-epidemic work to thoroughly prevent COVID-19 while conducting the production and economic activities."

However, several reports claim that hundreds have been quarantined to prevent any infection spread in the country which shares most of its northern border with China where COVID-19 first emerged. Deaths due to coronavirus in the North Korean military have not been ruled out.

The official Central News Agency reported that "emergency anti-epidemic" offices in coastal areas were "further tightening" measures on maritime entry into the country to "prevent the inflow of COVID-19."

"In this regard, health education has been given to citizens so that they can neither pick up nor touch any floating things in the sea, while a strong measure was taken to destroy such things by fire under the hygiene and anti-epidemic regulations," it said.

Neither Johns Hopkins University (JHU) nor University of Washington HGIS lab -- two top global data managers on the spread of COVID-19 spread -- have data on North Korea.

The Seoul-based Yonhap news agency said authorities in Pyongyang banned people from using public transportation without wearing masks.

Fully closing its border with South Korea, the country also restricted cross-border movement with China.

North Koreans using public transportation are obliged to wear masks and sanitize their hands before boarding trains, subways, buses and taxis, Yonhap said.

The regime also directed people to have their temperatures checked before using public transportation for long-distance travel, and "if they show suspected symptoms, they should be barred from boarding," Yonhap reported.

Across the border, South Korea on Thursday found new clusters of COVID-19 in the virus-hit southeastern city of Daegu and capital Seoul.

Authorities said 152 new cases were detected on Wednesday, bringing the country's total to 8,565.

At least 91 people have died in South Korea due to the coronavirus.

Since first being detected in Wuhan, China in December, the novel coronavirus has claimed 8,939 lives globally, mostly in China, according to global data maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

At least 219,427 cases of the virus have been confirmed in at least 159 countries and territories, with Europe being the new epicenter of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Despite the rising number of cases, most people who get infected suffer mild symptoms and recover.

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