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North Korea in emergency mode amid coronavirus outbreak

Airplanes and other forms of transportation connecting China and North Korea may have been suspended by North Korean authorities, Seoul said Tuesday. File Photo by Yonhap
Airplanes and other forms of transportation connecting China and North Korea may have been suspended by North Korean authorities, Seoul said Tuesday. File Photo by Yonhap

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- North Korea has declared a national emergency in response to the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in neighboring China, where the death toll climbed to 106 on Tuesday.

North Korea propaganda service Naenara stated on Tuesday afternoon the "new coronavirus" in China is "rapidly spreading to various countries around the world."

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"We are actively working to prevent the virus and the infectious disease caused by the virus," the propaganda service said.

Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said the regime is taking "emergency measures" against the coronavirus that has "recently caused great anxiety and concern in the international community."

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The Rodong said North Korean health officials were dispatched to different parts of the country to distribute literature on prevention.

In Pyongyang, the Russian embassy said local authorities are carrying out new measures that apply to foreign diplomats, international NGO workers and other foreign nationals stationed in the country.

According to the Russian embassy's Facebook page, North Korea is to quarantine for a month all foreigners entering the country for non-tourist purposes, South Korean news service News 1 reported Tuesday. Last week, North Korea may have suspended all leisure travel in response to the outbreak.

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The Russian embassy also said all flights between China and North Korea have been suspended. Flights were originally canceled until Feb. 10, but they are now suspended through the end of February, the embassy said.

On Tuesday, South Korea's unification ministry confirmed the suspension of all China-North Korea flights. The ban could extend to other forms of transportation, and Seoul is monitoring the situation, the ministry said, according to Yonhap.

South Korea has not yet decided to send supplies to the impoverished North, including face masks, however. The unification ministry said there is likely no risk of the virus spreading between North and South, but that Seoul is also "keeping an eye on the situation."

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North Korea has yet to report any coronavirus patients and the state has claimed it is working with the World Health Organization, but Pyongyang has not been transparent during recent outbreaks, including African swine fever. The disease among hog species partly spread to the South in 2019 when North Korea declined to cooperate on the epidemic.

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