The deaths and illnesses has reportedly caused an uproar in North Korea’s military establishment and has prompted leaders to take several measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
North Korea has not publicly confirmed a single case of the COVID-19 illness, but its state media have reported that thousands of people have been quarantined as part of strict prevention measures.
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Meanwhile, the Associated Press is reporting a special North Korean flight carrying dozens of diplomats and other foreigners arrived in Russia’s Far East on Monday.
Seemingly dozens of passengers, most of them wearing face masks and some accompanied by children, lined up at Pyongyang International Airport. North Korean health workers wearing white protective suits scanned them for fevers.
North Korea lifted a monthlong quarantine on foreign diplomats based in Pyongyang on March 2, allowing them to leave the country if needed.
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A total of 103 passengers — 63 foreigners and 40 North Koreans — were on Air Koryo Flight 271 that arrived in Vladivostok International Airport Monday morning, according to German diplomats who were on the plane. It wasn’t immediately clear whether North Korea would arrange additional flights to evacuate foreigners.
North Korea has called its anti-virus campaign a matter of “national existence.” It has banned foreign tourists, shut down nearly all cross-border traffic with China, intensified screening at entry points and mobilized health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms.
We were at one church Sunday, where hand sanitizer was available for members as they arrived.
Many experts say North Korea is highly vulnerable to infectious diseases due to its chronic shortage of medical supplies and outdated health care infrastructure.
Its state-run radio station reported Sunday that authorities last week released 1,020 people from quarantine in Kangwon province and 2,630 others in Jagang province.
Previous state media reports said at least 7,000 North Koreans had been quarantined, including 3,000 in North Phyongan province, 2,420 in South Phyongan province and 1,500 others in Kangwon.