|A picture of a quarantine official measuring drivers' temperatures with an infrared thermometer was printed in North Korea's state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun, July 31, amid the regime's declaration of a national emergency in response to COVID-19. / Yonhap|
By Park Han-sol
North Korea has expanded its anti-COVID-19 efforts on inbound traffic to its capital city amid growing fears following the return of a defector allegedly displaying virus symptoms.
Pyongyang's emergency anti-epidemic headquarters has installed additional guard posts at major entryways and transit points including train and bus stations to restrict access to the city, according to North Korea's state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun, Friday.
The newspaper also released an unusually long and highly critical piece that rebuked workers and organizations that have not properly adhered to the enacted quarantine measures, citing specific "evidence." These include lack of proper sanitizers placed at a building entrance, a series of in-person meetings in an enclosed office, and failures to check temperatures of doctors and patients in a hospital.
This comes just a day after Choe Ryong-hae, vice-chairman of the central committee of the Workers' Party and the current No. 2 leader in the government hierarchy, made a visit to Gaeseong to inspect ongoing regional antivirus efforts, according to the KCNA.
The border city of Gaeseong underwent complete lockdown after a North Korean defector suspected of showing COVID-19 symptoms returned from the South, July 19. The KCNA reported the party will impose a severe punishment on the military unit responsible for the defector's clandestine entry.
Following the defector's return, the reclusive regime has expressed growing concern about the possible entry of people infected with COVID-19. Leader Kim Jong-un convened an emergency meeting of the ruling Worker's Party's Political Bureau last Saturday, where he declared a "maximum" national emergency and issued a nationwide top-class alert against the virus.
North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection and continues to boast its "virus-free" status, a claim considered dubious as it suffers from poor medical infrastructure to combat the disease.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1,211 North Korean nationals have been tested for the virus as of July 16, all with negative results, and 696 have been placed under quarantine.