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North Korea touts research into anti-viral drugs

North Korea touts research into anti-viral drugs
North Korea has declared a national emergency over the outbreak of the new strain of coronavirus. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 26 (UPI) -- North Korea state media claimed scientists in the country are searching for a cure for the new strain of deadly coronavirus.

Pyongyang propaganda service Meari said Wednesday there are no cases of COVID-19 in North Korea, but scientists are preparing with new research.

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North Korean medical and pharmaceutical research institutes are "actively researching" anti-viral drugs and the regime's microbe research center has conducted successful tests for an anti-viral vaccine.

Meari also said Pyongyang Medical University has developed a new "gel" that can be used to protect against the cold flu virus and avian flu.

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Traditional Koreans herbs and roots are also being referred to as potential remedies. North Korean researchers at Koryo Medical Hospital are "placing great efforts" into analyzing the potential for plants like garlic and Asiatic knotweed. Burdock is also being researched, North Korea state media said.

North Korea has claimed the country has no cases of the coronavirus, despite the rise of infections and deaths in neighboring China, where more than 2,700 people have died, according to official statistics.

"There has not been one suspected patient of the new strain of coronavirus in our country," O Chun Bok, Pyongyang's minister of public health, said last week on Korea Central Television.

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China and North Korea share an 880-mile border that has yet to be completely sealed.

Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported Wednesday the state has ordered the disinfection of trains at Sinuiju, the border city facing China. Nearly all forms of cross-border transportation may have been suspended since the outbreak.

North Korea's decision to further isolate itself from the outside world comes at a time when experts say its healthcare system is unprepared to deal with infections of a deadly virus.

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Outside Pyongyang, there are "no medical facilities." International experts say hospitals lack electricity or running water. Cases may also be going undetected in rural areas, according to the BBC on Wednesday.

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