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Kim Jong Un orders officials to make COVID-19 policy 'top priority'

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un upbraided subordinates and ordered tough enforcement of anti-epidemic measures against the novel coronavirus. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un upbraided subordinates and ordered tough enforcement of anti-epidemic measures against the novel coronavirus. File Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Kim Jong Un said anti-epidemic measures against the novel coronavirus are to be North Korea's No. 1 priority "again this year." He made his comments during the plenary meeting of the ruling Workers' Party's eighth Central Committee.

Party paper Rodong Sinmun reported Friday the North Korean leader said the day before that the "perfecting of emergency quarantine projects is the No. 1 priority among all important tasks," the same day he chided his subordinates for misreporting production data.

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Kim's comments came ahead of the Lunar New Year on Friday. South Korean news service Seoul Pyongyang News reported ordinary North Koreans are being allowed to take the day off, citing sources in North Pyongan Province.

While North Koreans are permitted to engage in ceremony, including rituals to honor ancestors, they are "spending a quiet day with their families" on the holiday, the report said.

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State media could be trying to paint a different picture. The Rodong said Friday that residents of Pyongyang were busy shopping for flowers and bouquets to celebrate the holidays.

SP News' sources also said some areas are more restricted than others. In the city of Hyesan, Yanggang Province, residents are being prohibited from going outside. Sources in North Korea said the prices of goods are "soaring" due to the ongoing blockade of the China-North Korea border, according to the report.

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North Korea has reported zero COVID-19 cases to the World Health Organization since 2020, but also has said it will continue to maintain tough quarantine measures.

RELATED Report: North Korea ready to stage artillery exercises on Lunar New Year

Pyongyang's border closure since the start of the pandemic has further isolated the country. North Korea has not signaled that it will return to diplomatic talks anytime soon.

KCNA reported Friday that North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon has been elected to the politburo of the Party's Central Committee. Ri's absence from the politburo list in December raised speculation in Seoul Ri may have been demoted while retaining his position.

Ri made headlines in the South when he made incendiary remarks to a visiting South Korean delegation in 2018.

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