March 25 (UPI) -- North Korea began construction on a hospital per orders of leader Kim Jong Un, according to Pyongyang's state media.
Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported Wednesday the construction of Pyongyang General Hospital has started with "much material support flowing in daily," with "devoted workers" present.
North Korea closed its borders in January in response to the coronavirus outbreak in neighboring China. The regime has claimed there are zero cases of COVID-19, but last week Kim complained about the lack of adequate medical facilities in his country.
"To be honest, our party analyzed and evaluated the current state of the country's health and medical sectors thoroughly and scientifically and criticized the fact that there was no modern medical health facility in the country's capital," Kim had said, according to KCNA.
On Wednesday, the Rodong said Kim had ordered the completion of the hospital by October of this year.
The deadline coincides with North Korea's Party Foundation Day. The ruling Workers' Party will commemorate an anniversary on Oct. 10.
"Let us work toward a monumental creation in the construction of Pyongyang General Hospital, ahead of the 75th anniversary of the party's founding," the North Korean newspaper said.
The Rodong claimed the construction is taking place to accelerate step-by-step objectives to "ensure the quality and speed of construction." North Korean enterprises, including Sang Won Cement Coalition, are taking part in the project, state media said.
International experts have said North Korea's medical facilities are ill-equipped to contain a pandemic.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Tuesday North Korea sanctions must be eased in order to help Pyongyang properly respond to COVID-19, Voice of America's Korean service reported.
Bachelet said sanctions also need to be relaxed for other countries, including Iran, Cuba, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
The U.N. rights chief said easing sanctions would improve health infrastructure and the basic rights of people in affected countries, according to the report.