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North Korea border closure continues amid global surge of COVID-19

North Korea’s 880-mile border remains mostly closed and no significant activity has been detected, South Korean officials say. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
North Korea’s 880-mile border remains mostly closed and no significant activity has been detected, South Korean officials say. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 17 (UPI) -- The China-North Korea border remains shuttered as the World Health Organization said more than 6,100 people were reported as suspected COVID-19 patients in the North since the start of the pandemic.

South Korean unification ministry officials said Tuesday they have detected no movements toward lifting restrictions at the 880-mile border, despite reports in October of a reopening, Yonhap and local paper Hankook Ilbo reported.

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"There has not been any significant movements at the China-North Korea border," a South Korean official said. "New quarantine-strengthening measures were taken at the expanded politburo meeting [on Sunday] as other countries strengthen their quarantine measures in preparation for a winter wave of COVID-19. North Korea appears to be not moving the border blockade for the time being."

Seoul officials said North Korea is facing a dilemma. A nationwide lockdown would help curb the spread of the virus, but also pose challenges to the regime's impoverished economy.

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Pyongyang's Rodong Sinmun warned North Koreans about a global resurgence of the coronavirus on Tuesday.

"The number of COVID-19 infections is increasing exponentially," the Rodong said. Citizens "must obey the national emergency defense measures."

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The Rodong also called for increasing efforts to disinfect offices and buildings. Commuters should abide by "established quarantine regulations," state media said.

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The message comes after Kim Jong Un ordered officials on Sunday to "further intensify the anti-epidemic work, being aware of the important responsibility for the security of the state and the wellbeing of the people," according to KCNA.

North Korea previously claimed victory over the coronavirus and has reported zero cases to the World Health Organization since the beginning of the pandemic.

North Korean authorities have reported people exhibiting symptoms. According to the WHO, no cases had been reported as of November.

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A total of 6,173 people have been reported as suspected patients since January, with 805 North Koreans receiving the designation between Oct. 22 and 29 "as a result of intensified surveillance."

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