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A view of Hyesan, Yanggang Province, in August 2018. (Daily NK)

Yanggang Province’s city of Hyesan responded to a rapid spread of COVID-19 by going into a full lockdown this past Saturday, Daily NK has learned. 

A source in the province told Daily NK on Tuesday that COVID-19 cases have been spiking in the province, including in Hyesan. “Even though coronavirus cases are springing up everywhere, locals don’t know they’ve been infected with the virus,” he said.

According to the source, cases of high fever had been spiking in Hyesan since late last month. Regardless, North Korean authorities had emphasized only isolation measures and travel restrictions. They took no necessary measures such as providing the sick with medical treatments.

The source said that dozens of people came down with fever in Hyesan’s Wiyon-dong neighborhood in late April. Their fevers were so severe that they could not get up or properly eat for a week. Similar cases emerged in the city’s Masan-dong and Hyehwa-dong, too.

Despite the circumstances, Hyesan’s medical professionals provided no needed medicines, telling patients they would be fine if they took cold medicine and “sweated” their sicknesses away. 

North Korean authorities remained aloof from the suffering until North Korea’s politburo convened a series of emergency meetings recently to discuss quarantine efforts. The authorities then instructed fever patients to be designated COVID-19 cases and confined to their homes. 

“They’re just bolstering their controls on public movement, telling people to stay at home, while providing the infected with no medicines or medical treatments,” the source claimed. 

Despite the skyrocketing number of cases of high fevers, the authorities are telling people to take traditional Korean medicine or eat willow leaves, he continued. 

“Though locals are suffering from high fever, the government just keeps issuing absurd orders,” the source added. 

Hyesan residents have remained in their homes since Saturday following a ban on going outside. Markets have been closed as well. In short, the city’s residents must wait in place, with no public notice given on when the lockdown will end.

When the city ordered the lockdown, it also ordered the heads of inminban (people’s units) to take charge of feeding hard-off families, the source further reported. 

“The inminban heads can’t act as ration distribution centers, so nobody knows where they are going to get the rice to give people under their care,” he said, adding, “The government has handed down absurd, nonsensical orders, so people could not hide their feeling that [the orders are] ridiculous.”

Translated by David Black. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

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

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Lee Chae Un is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. She can be reached at dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.