Three military doctors and one civilian doctor recently died at a North Korean military hospital after suffering from symptoms similar to those caused by COVID-19, Daily NK has learned. 

The four deaths occurred at Hospital No. 32 in the city of Nampo on Apr. 5, according to Daily NK military sources on Apr. 10. Hospital No. 32 is run by the North Korean navy’s West Sea Fleet Command. 

The doctors had been caring for soldiers in intensive medical care, but began suffering from fevers and respiratory problems from around Apr. 1. 

Following the deaths, military authorities quickly took measures to quarantine the approximately 50 soldiers and 20 medical professionals who were in the same hospital ward as the deceased. They were reportedly quarantined in a nearby storage facility for pharmaceuticals. 

The families of the deceased doctors were also quarantined in an isolation facility in Nampo. Daily NK sources said that military officials told the families that the military would hold funerals for the dead doctors. The bodies of the four doctors were reportedly sterilized. 

Local investigators reportedly began contact tracing efforts to seek out answers to why the deaths had occurred. The civilian doctor was found to have come to work despite suffering from a fever over the course of a week. He had been taking fever reducers in an attempt to hide his symptoms, Daily NK sources confirmed. 

The doctor was also discovered to have been living with his brother-in-law, who is a Nampo Port customs inspector. The inspector had been quarantined at one point and recently released from isolation. 

Preliminary results from the contact tracing investigation suggest that the civilian doctor was infected by COVID-19 through his brother-in-law. The infected doctor then spread his infection to colleagues at the hospital. 

Following the deaths, the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces (MPAF), which handles the military’s administrative and logistics coordination, issued an emergency order to all military hospitals. The order stated that all hospitals should quarantine patients whose body temperatures stay above 37.4 degrees Celsius for more than two days.

The MPAF order also emphasized rigorous adherence to the country’s emergency disease control efforts including: thorough sterilization of military facilities three times a day; boiling of water before consumption; and, adherence to strict personal hygiene procedures.

*Translated by Violet Kim

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.