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North Korea deploys coronavirus team, state media says

North Korea deploys coronavirus team, state media says
The coronavirus outbreak in China, pictured, has prompted North Korea to declare a state of emergency. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 4 (UPI) -- North Korea is deploying a special team of 30,000 health workers to combat the deadly coronavirus, as the official death toll in neighboring China and adjacent countries climbed to 427 on Tuesday.

Pyongyang declared a state of emergency in January as the coronavirus, also called 2019 nCoV, spread to areas of China beyond Hubei Province. Last week, a northeastern Chinese newspaper reported at least two residents were confirmed patients.

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Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported Tuesday the party's central emergency command is to "reinforce the capacity of the relevant departments" and identify gaps in North Korea's prevention mechanism.

North Korea suspended non-essential travel last month, and Pyongyang-based diplomats have said the regime is placing foreign visitors in a mandatory one-month quarantine, regardless of their physical condition.

RELATED China coronavirus reaches province near North Korea

North Korea's health workers may be going door to door to inspect the health of the population. Russia's Tass news agency reported Monday North Korean inspectors were wearing protective blue-colored clothing, masks and goggles, while conducting medical checkups and taking body temperatures at various embassies in the country's capital.

Recent reports indicate North Korea has suspended transportation, includes planes and trains that connect the isolated country to Russia and China. Some exceptions are being made, according to South Korean news service Seoul Pyongyang News on Tuesday.

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A source on North Korea told Seoul Pyongyang News authorities have blocked roads and railroads between the Chinese city of Dandong and North Korea, but are allowing the postal service to continue operations between the two countries. A freight train between Dandong and Pyongyang is also running at least once a week, SPN's source said.

RELATED North Korea, Russia cease railroad operations, citing coronavirus

The coronavirus has had a significant impact on North Korea's outlook for 2020. The country's medical infrastructure is ill equipped to deal with an outbreak; defectors have said malnutrition among the population has weakened people's immune systems, making them highly susceptible to viruses.

RELATED U.S., South Korea exercises headed to Fort Irwin

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