North Korea puts border city in lockdown over suspected outbreak

North Korea puts border city in lockdown over suspected outbreak

North Korea puts border city in lockdown over suspected outbreak

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un placed the city of Kaesong under lockdown after a person suspected to have the coronavirus returned from South Korea. The authorities are now searching for all the people who have come into contact with the individual and conducting relevant medical examinations.

North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, convened an emergency politburo meeting yesterday to implement a "maximum emergency system and issue a top-class alert" to contain the virus, according to the KCNA.

KCNA did not elaborate on how the "runaway" had crossed one of the world's most heavily guarded borders but said the incident was being investigated and the military unit responsible would face "severe punishment".

This is a developing story.

South Korea's military said Sunday it was looking into North Korea's claims that a "runaway" had returned a week ago with symptoms of coronavirus, crossing the military demarcation line that separates the two Koreas.

The World Health Organization, which has staff in Pyongyang and is assisting North Korean health officials, said this month that more than 1,000 people had been tested for the coronavirus.

"This may also be a tactic for ratcheting up diplomatic pressure on (South Korea) and trying to further dissuade North Koreans from defecting to the South", he said.

In January, North Korea declared the launch of a national emergency system against the new coronavirus, shutting down its borders and tightening quarantine measures, reports Yonhap News Agency.

Despite the North's assertion that the defector moved by foot, no such signs have yet been detected by the military, with a Seoul government official saying, "It is likely that the defector had swum there, potentially along the island Ganghwado and Gimpo".

More than 30,000 North Korean civilians have fled their homeland since the peninsula was divided at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

However, South Korea said it can not verify this and that it has had no reports of any persons crossing the border.

Early this year, Pyongyang announced it suspended all travels with China, and that there was no COVID-19 threat in the country. The country may suffer the largest economic contraction this year since a starvation in the 1990s after borders with its biggest trading partner China were closed to prevent the spread of the virus, according to Fitch Solutions. But it is rare for the defectors who settled in the South to head back north.

The commander of U.S. Forces Korea has said the virus has likely made its way to the isolated country.

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