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Foreigners evacuating North Korea claim no COVID-19 in country

Foreigners evacuating North Korea claim no COVID-19 in country
A special flight that was arranged between North Korea and Russia touched down in Vladivostok on Monday, according to a South Korean press report. File Photo by Yonhap

March 9 (UPI) -- Foreign nationals arriving in Vladivostok, Russia, on a special flight out of North Korea are saying there are no confirmed cases of the new strain of coronavirus in the secretive country, according to a South Korean press report.

Yonhap reported Monday foreign passport holders who have been evacuated out of the North Korean capital amid the global COVID-19 epidemic appear to be reiterating claims from the North Korean government the outbreak is under control.

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According to Yonhap's Vladivostok correspondent, the group leaving North Korea included diplomats and businesspeople. They arrived in Russia at 10:50 a.m. on a Tupolev Tu-204 plane, Koryo Air flight JS-271.

One 73-year-old Italian man, who said he was an employee of a Italian firm, defended the Kim Jong Un regime.

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North Koreans are not hiding patients and are also "thoroughly carrying out temperature checks and inspections," the man said.

A Russian man returning from Pyongyang on the flight reportedly said North Korea is managing everything, and the society is orderly. Another passenger identified as a "European diplomat" said North Koreans are all wearing masks and "wary of the situation."

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The only interviewee who raised doubts about North Korea's official statements about the outbreak reportedly said "Who can trust" North Korea, according to Yonhap. The interview did not include follow-up statements from the interviewee, who was not identified by nationality.

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North Korea has claimed there are "zero" cases of COVID-19, but state media also said Monday more than 9,550 people have been quarantined nationwide.

Conditions of quarantine could be creating major problems for ordinary North Koreans.

A source based in the Chinese city of Dandong told Radio Free Asia the Kim regime is forcing people under quarantine to pay for all costs during the period of isolation.

RELATED North Korea outlines quarantine measures for COVID-19

A day of quarantine costs 5 Chinese yuan, or about 70 cents, which adds up as the isolation period requirement grows. North Korea recently increased the quarantine period to 40 days, according to RFA.

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