North Korea alerts over ‘first suspected coronavirus case’

In North Korea, it is compulsory for people to wear masks in public places. Photo by REUTERS

Pyongyang, North Korea – North Korea reports what is said to be the first suspected coronavirus case in the country.

The State news agency KCNA said that a person who defected to South Korea three years ago and had returned back to the country last week across the demarcation line had shown symptoms for the virus.

“An emergency event happened in Kaesong city where a runaway who went to the south three years ago, a person who is suspected to have been infected with the vicious virus returned on 19 July after illegally crossing the demarcation line,” KCNA said.

The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un held an emergency meeting with top officials regarding the matter, imposing a lockdown in the border city of Kaesong. Mr. Kim ordered a “maximum emergency system” to contain the virus during Saturday’s politburo meeting.

The State news agency also added that Mr. Kim had launched an investigation to find out how the person managed to cross the  heavily fortified border while warning that to those who are responsible, “a severe punishment” would be administered.

On the contrary, South Korea has not yet reported of any illegal crossings of the demilitarized border over the past few days.

Although the analysts say that it was unlikely, the secretive state, North Korea had earlier claimed that they had no Covid-19 cases.

The country had closed its  borders and put thousands of people in isolation six months ago, as the virus swept across the globe. Earlier this month, Mr. Kim had hailed his country’s “shining success” in dealing with Covid-19.