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Coronavirus threatens North Korea with chaos

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Experts say North Korea’s self-imposed isolation in the face of the emerging Corona virus that is sweeping through China is the only way to prevent this disease, which its fragile health system will not be able to contain.

North Korea was among the first countries to close its borders with China and was its first trading partner and first aid. It suspended flights and train connections, prevented visits to tourists and imposed a 30-day quarantine on people suspected of carrying the virus.

The Pyongyang authorities indicate that they are monitoring the situation. The official newspaper “Rodong Sinmun” confirmed the matter again Friday and wrote, “Fortunately, the infection with the new coronavirus has not yet entered our country.”

Weak medical structures

But if the virus enters North Korea, the country will be threatened by health chaos, according to experts. Pyongyang, which is subject to numerous international economic sanctions because of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, has weak medical structures.

Hospitals suffer from irregular feeding of water and electricity and a chronic shortage of medicines.

“If the disease spreads, the North Korean (medical) system will be powerless,” expects Choa Jong-hoon, a former North Korean doctor who moved to South Korea in 2012, adding that “the matter will bring out all control.”

In North Korea, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, “essential drugs”, laboratory equipment and “medical, therapeutic and diagnostic supplies and supplies for sensitive and urgent health interventions” are missing in North Korea.

According to the 2019 Global Health Security Index prepared by the American Johns-Hopkins Research Center, North Korea ranks 193 out of 195 and is only ahead of Somalia and Equatorial Guinea.

Pyongyang has previously resorted to national isolation in exchange for health threats in the past.

North Korea has banned tourist visits for more than four months, starting in October 2014, to protect its citizens from the Ebola virus, although no infection was recorded in Asia. All flights were banned for six months during the spread of the SARS epidemic, which killed nearly 650 people in mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002 and 2003.

Dr. Choa, who is now a professor at a South Korean Abha Institute, recounted that during the 2006 measles outbreak, an observer was appointed on trains from the North Korean port of Chungjin to the capital, Pyongyang, to monitor people with high body temperature symptoms.

“The most important point is to defend the Pyongyang regime,” he told AFP, noting that fear of the virus had caused North Korean leader Kim Jong-un not to appear in public for more than three weeks.

– “National Survival” –

In recent weeks, official media have reported widespread coverage of anti-virus measures and described them as a struggle for “national survival”.

Officials wore protective masks, while holding emergency meetings, as well as workers clearing public places.

The WHO has not opposed Pyongyang’s declaration of no injuries on North Korean territory. “Until now, there are no indications or indications that we are dealing with Covid-19 disease there,” Michael Ryan, director of the WHO’s Emergency Health Service, told reporters.

However, fleeing and South Korean media confirm the presence of injuries. Thai Yong Ho, the former second official at the North Korean embassy in London that split in 2016, questioned the reliability of WHO information.

According to him, the international organizations present in the country are not able to independently verify the facts.

The dissident considered that “the only information that the WHO office in Pyongyang can obtain is the system information (which represents a single point of view)”.

The lecturer at Harvard Key Park Medical School who has participated in 18 medical missions in North Korea notes that the authorities have developed a “maximum prevention strategy”. He added that “these measures reflect the realistic assessment carried out by the government of the fragility of its health system.”

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