Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Health screenings are mandatory for North Korean university students before they return to campus, according to a Pyongyang propaganda service.
Meari said the medical workers at North Korea's Kim Chaek University of Technology are "engaged in a battle" to fight against the spread of the new strain of coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,700 people in neighboring China.
North Korean medical workers are prioritizing the screening of youth workers, the university administration and school staff at a designated inspection facility "beforehand," state media said.
"Health workers are successfully conducting check-ups for thousands of [returning] students, staying up several nights, in order to avoid disruptions to school operations," Meari said.
State media also said North Korean hospitals and medical workers are stepping up public education regarding COVID-19, including its symptoms and ways of transmission.
In January, North Korea declared a national emergency over the coronavirus outbreak. North Korea has not disclosed any data on deaths or infections and continues to claim there are no coronavirus patients or related deaths.
Lack of information transparency on the outbreak in North Korea and China has drawn skepticism from analysts in the United States. Since the outbreak, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has claimed China is hiding the real source of the deadly virus that has spread globally since January.
Cotton has claimed the coronavirus is linked to a biological lab in China, a theory Trevor Bedford, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, has dismissed as false. "There is no evidence whatsoever of genetic engineering that we can find," Bedford said, according to the Financial Times.
During an appearance on Fox News on Sunday, Cotton said again a lab "just a few miles away from that food market is China's only biosafety level 4 super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases."
China's Wuhan Institute of Virology on Sunday denied the outbreak began among its lab technicians, including a woman identified as Huang Yanling, who "is in good health." Huang was rumored to be "patient zero" on Chinese social media.
On Jan. 24, the Lancet, an independent medical journal, published a study indicating the "first patient" identified on Dec. 1 was not linked to subsequent cases connected to the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, which Chinese authorities have said is ground zero for COVID-19.