North Korea coronavirus: Kim Jong-un prides his country on ‘preventing’ COVID inroads

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Kim told a meeting of the politburo of the ruling Workers Party: “We have thoroughly prevented the inroad of the malignant virus and maintained a stable anti-epidemic situation despite the worldwide health crisis, which is a shining success achieved,”

In a statement carried by KCNA, Kim warned against self-complacency or relaxation in the anti-epidemic effort and urged North Koreans to maintain “maximum alert”.

The politburo meeting on Thursday comes as many hard-hit countries begin to ease lockdown.

A number of countries have continued to ease restrictions despite there being more than 10 million confirmed infections globally.

There has been 500,000 deaths.

North Korea has reopened schools but kept a ban on public gatherings.

The country has made it mandatory for people to wear masks in public places as part of its response to the coronavirus threat, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Wednesday.

While the reclusive country has not confirmed any infections, its public health ministry has reported all 922 people checked so far have tested negative.

Hundreds of people, mostly cargo handlers at seaports and land borders, are regularly quarantined for monitoring.

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Thursday’s politburo meeting also addressed the construction of the Pyongyang General Hospital, underway in the capital.

North Korea has been pushing for the hospital’s inauguration before October 10, the ruling party’s founding anniversary.

Kim expressed satisfaction with the project and thanked the builders for making headway under unfavorable conditions.

“Kim Jong Un made sure powerful national measures were taken for urgently solving the problems arising to brilliantly complete the hospital which would provide the people with the most advanced medical service, to be of the world standard,” KCNA said.

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Kim Jong-un has declared “maximum alert” over the coronavirus pandemic, despite the country reporting no cases.

Speaking at the meeting, he cautioned that a rash lifting of lockdown measures could result in an “unimaginable and irretrievable crisis,” state media reported Friday.

Mr Kim also made “sharp criticism of inattention, onlooking and chronic attitude getting prevalent among officials, and violation of the rules of the emergency anti-epidemic work as this work takes on a protracted character,” it added.

“He repeatedly warned that hasty relief of anti-epidemic measures will result in unimaginable and irretrievable crisis, stressing that all the sectors and units should further strengthen the emergency anti-epidemic work till the danger of pandemic incoming is completely rid of.”

During the meeting, there were no discussions relating to the North’s struggling relationship with South Korea.

Cross-border tensions rose again after North Korea launched a series of aggravating attacks in retaliation for anti-Pyongyang pamphlets sent by militants in South Korea.

Last month North Korea blocked all means of communication with South Korea and blew up a liaison office in Kaesong.

Threats of retaliation followed with specific plans to be resolved at a Central Military Commission summit that will take place “at an earliest date.”

But North Korea has temporarily ceased in its provocations and belligerent attitude toward South Korea since Mr Kim suddenly paused “military action plans” against South Korea last week.

It comes after North Korea revealed that it has seen its lowest decline in defections on record after restrictions were introduced on the movement of people in China during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The biggest reason behind the decline is that the national borders of these countries were closed after the outbreak of the coronavirus and cross-border movement became difficult,” said Yoh Sang-key, a spokesman for Seoul’s unification ministry.

“A more professional analysis is needed, but for now the decline in the number of incoming defectors appears to be affected by the shutdown of borders in neighbouring countries after the coronavirus outbreak emerged, which made it difficult for people to travel,” he told a regular briefing.

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