North Korea is ramping up COVID-19 disease control efforts ahead of the Eighth Party Congress that is scheduled to be held in January, Daily NK has learned. 

“The Central Anti-epidemic Committee’s inspection began early this month,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Monday. “Members of the committee are being dispatched to each region to educate citizens on the specifics of the quarantine orders issued by the government.”

Members of the Central Anti-epidemic Committee closely examined the state of the Sinuiju’s disease control measures as well, according to another source in North Pyongan Province. 

The committee is conducting an intense inspection of COVID-19 prevention measures in the Sino-North Korean border region. The committee’s focus on the border region may be due to the “Hyesan Incident,” a smuggling incident that occurred in Hyesan, Yanggang Province, recently. 

The committee’s inspectors are reportedly demanding detailed reports from border region residents on even the most trivial or unusual problems and ordering them to strictly adhere to quarantine and the social distancing rules.

covid quarantine
Disease control officials testing drivers for COVID-19 symptoms in Pyongyang’s Manggyongdae District. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

Local doctors have been ordered to check the temperature of households under their care twice a day, and people have recently been required to keep a two-meter distance from each other in the streets, according to sources in the region. 

The heads of inminban, North Korea’s lowest administrative unit, are keeping close tabs on hygiene among the households they watch over. In practice, this means that inminban heads are checking that people are abiding by quarantine rules and sanitizing their houses and hands four times a day.

Locals have reportedly been ordered to make their antiseptic solution from the extract provided by their inminban. One source said that the head of a local inminban told residents under her charge to boil water with half a spoon of salt for two hours if they are running low on antiseptic solution. 

Inspectors also urged households to add garlic concentrate to their side dishes every day or even to just “sniff it” to prevent infection. They are spreading other unverified disease control information as well, including the claim that “a nation that eats soybean bean paste and kimchi can get out from under this infectious disease.” 

As North Korean authorities are ramping up COVID-19 disease control efforts, some North Koreans are saying that “it won’t be long before trade is restarted.” Their reasoning behind this is that “[the North Korean authorities] are taking every precaution and readying themselves to be able to immediately handle any issues that arise because they are planning to reopen [the borders] after the Eighth Party Congress.”

*Translated by Susan Lee

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