Kim Jong Il said at a meeting of high-level politicians that they have prevented new coronaviruses from invading this basically closed country.
The state news agency KCNA said on Friday: “Despite the global health crisis, we have completely prevented the invasion of malignant viruses and maintained a stable anti-epidemic posture. This is a glorious success.”
However, as the global health crisis has not eased, Kim Jong-un also condemned officials for complacency.
Kim Jong Il said: “Hurry to take anti-epidemic measures will lead to an unimaginable and irreversible crisis.”
The images released by the conference’s KCNA showed that Kim Jong Il chaired dozens of officials who did not seem to practice social alienation. No one wore a mask.
However, diplomatic sources in Pyongyang said on the street that everyone was wearing masks and some form of social alienation. They said that most of life in the North Korean capital has returned to normal, and construction sites, shops and hotels are now open. A source said that the school there reopened in June.
The source said that North Korean officials seemed to have confidence in controlling the virus, at least in Pyongyang, but one of the sources said he had not heard of anyone being tested.
The meeting was Kim Jong Il’s first public appearance in weeks. The young North Korean leader has been busy arranging public events for the past few years, but he has kept a surprisingly low profile in the past three months.
10.8 million people worldwide are infected with this new coronavirus, and more than half a million people die from the virus. With the exception of North Korea, every country in East Asia has reported at least one Covid-19 case.
In a statement sent to CNN via email, Dr Edwin Salvador, the World Health Organization’s representative in North Korea, said that 922 people had been tested for the virus in the country, and all tests were negative. North Korea’s population may be about 25 million, although the exact number is not yet clear because Pyongyang does not provide demographic information to the public.
El Salvador said that since the beginning of the pandemic, 25,551 people have been quarantined and later released. He said that as many as 255 people (all North Korean nationals) were still isolated. El Salvador said that schools across the country have been reopened and students must wear masks.
Independent public health experts say that the virus will most likely not enter the country in some form. One of the most likely cases is that the virus may have entered through the northern border smuggled with China. Coronavirus clusters have been identified in northeastern China, including one discovered in Jilin Province in May.
El Salvador said that although the border was closed, the goods destined for North Korea still had to be disinfected and then quarantined for 10 days.
Experts believe that due to the weak medical infrastructure in North Korea, North Korea is particularly vulnerable to the Covid-19 epidemic and has previously questioned Pyongyang’s testing capabilities. El Salvador said that North Korea has 235 rapid response teams nationwide preparing to handle cases and has designated 15 laboratories for Covid-19 testing. North Korean authorities have begun using infrared thermometers to conduct temperature checks in public places where masks must be worn. Public gatherings are prohibited.
“The national agreement of the Ministry of Health is based on WHO guidelines to respond to any suspected cases of COVID-19. All suspected cases (mild, moderate or severe) are managed in isolation in designated county or provincial hospitals, and no Case of family isolation.” He said in a statement.
Although many people worry that North Korea’s health care system will be overwhelmed by a potential pandemic, the country is also well placed to prevent the virus from penetrating its borders. When the pandemic first appeared a few months ago, North Korea no longer allowed people to enter the country, and people within the country were unable to enjoy the freedom of travel they wanted. The detractors say that ordinary Koreans are not allowed to go out without government approval.