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North Korea stepping up 'emergency quarantine' policy to combat COVID-19

North Korean state media says emergency quarantine measures are in effect but did not provide more information on the status of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Photo by KCNA
North Korean state media says emergency quarantine measures are in effect but did not provide more information on the status of COVID-19 on Wednesday. Photo by KCNA

Sept. 2 (UPI) -- North Korea is calling for the strengthening of "emergency quarantine measures" even as its health ministry continues to claim no confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Korean Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said Wednesday the state is calling for a nationwide and "people-wide" emergency quarantine operation.

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"That citizens do not slow down their preparedness and further awaken and exert themselves is the key to whether the emergency quarantine is a success or failure," the Rodong said.

In July, Pyongyang said it had locked down the city of Kaesong following a re-defection from the South. Last month, the lockdown was lifted despite state media claims the escapee was suspected of carrying the coronavirus.

The Rodong did not refer to Kaesong or the suspected patient on Wednesday. The paper instructed "all members of society to be deeply aware of their civic duty" and obey regulations, including mandatory wearing of face masks.

North Korea has not been transparent about the status of COVID-19. According to U.N. Special Rapporteur Tomás Ojea Quintana last week, international aid agencies have been completely blocked inside North Korea while Pyongyang has been leaving NGOs with the impression there has been no major outbreak. Last week, the World Health Organization told Radio Free Asia a total of 2,767 people had been tested and no infections were reported, citing North Korea's health ministry statistics.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has drastically reduced activities after two years of diplomacy that primarily focused on friendly countries like China.

KCNA reported Wednesday Kim sent a letter to Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong on the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of Vietnam in 1930.

Kim met with Vietnamese leaders in 2019 during his second official summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. Relations between Pyongyang and Hanoi have improved since his visit.

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