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North Korea locks down Kaesong over suspected coronavirus case
July 26, 2020 | 2:46 PM
by DW
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called an emergency meeting after an individual suspected of having COVID-19 illegally crossed the border from South Korea, state media said on Sunday.



If the person is officially declared a virus patient, it would be the first confirmed coronavirus case acknowledged by Pyongyang. North Korea has so far maintained that the country has recorded not a single case of coronavirus on its territory, a claim questioned by outside experts.



According to state news agency KCNA, Kim convened an emergency meeting on Saturday, after imposing a preemptive lockdown on the border town of Kaesong on Friday. It quoted Kim as saying that there was "a critical situation in which the vicious virus could be said to have entered the country."



North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called an emergency meeting after an individual suspected of having COVID-19 illegally crossed the border from South Korea, state media said on Sunday.



If the person is officially declared a virus patient, it would be the first confirmed coronavirus case acknowledged by Pyongyang. North Korea has so far maintained that the country has recorded not a single case of coronavirus on its territory, a claim questioned by outside experts.



According to state news agency KCNA, Kim convened an emergency meeting on Saturday, after imposing a preemptive lockdown on the border town of Kaesong on Friday. It quoted Kim as saying that there was "a critical situation in which the vicious virus could be said to have entered the country."





Poor public healthcare



Describing its anti-virus efforts as a "matter of national existence," North Korea earlier this year shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned foreign tourists and mobilized health workers to quarantine anyone with symptoms.



Early in July, Kim praised the country's six months of anti-epidemic efforts as a "shining success" at a party meeting, though he also said that easing measures too hastily would lead to an "unimaginable and irretrievable crisis," according to KCNA.



Little is known about the reclusive nation's true health situation. Foreign experts say a coronavirus outbreak in North Korea could cause dire consequences because of its poor public healthcare infrastructure and chronic lack of medical supplies.



More than 33,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea over the past 20 years to avoid poverty and political suppression, mostly via the long, porous border with China. But it's rare for North Korean refugees to return to their homeland by crossing the mine-strewn inter-Korean border.



The South Korean government has no immediate comments on the North Korean announcement. Yonhap news agency cited the South Korean military as well as officials at the unification ministry and the presidential office as saying work is underway to check the claim about the unauthorized border crossing.



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