North Korea published this photo of disease control officials in protective suits on May 13. (Rodong Sinmun)

Instructions related to North Korea’s revised Emergency Anti-epidemic Law were recently handed down to senior government officials nationwide, Daily NK has learned.

North Korean authorities revised the law during the 20th Plenary Session of the 14th Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly on May 31. 

“The State Emergency Anti-epidemic Command delivered the revised and expanded version of the Emergency Anti-epidemic Law to each province, and North Hamgyong Province handed down [instructions related to the revised law] during a meeting of senior officials,” a source in the province told Daily NK on Wednesday.

The instructions were handed down to senior officials in the provinces to ensure they are held personally responsible for problems that occur in the simultaneous implementation of the state’s economic plans and the campaign against COVID-19, the source explained.

In fact, the North Korean government announced through the instructions that it will take stricter legal measures against officials who put off economic plans because of the pandemic, who neglect to produce supplies for the pandemic, or who fail to take measures to stop the spread of the disease. The government said that such behavior derives from the failure to prioritize the lives and safety of the public and represents defiance of official COVID-19 policy.

In its instructions to the provinces, the government also mentioned increasing the responsibility and authority of local anti-epidemic commands, and that it would hold workplaces, organizations and individual citizens legally responsible for disobeying instructions handed down by the commands. 

North Korean authorities also announced that responsibility for dealing with various aspects of outbreaks will be more specifically delineated than before. According to the instructions, during an initial lockdown phase, local anti-epidemic commands would be put in control over all relevant spheres (including the national border, land, sea and air), with bans placed on the movement of people, plants, animals and supplies.

The government instructed anti-epidemic commands at the provincial level and below to make a distinction between those who are still infected with COVID-19 and those who have recovered, and to allow or block the movement of people based on the conditions in each region and unit. The government stressed, however, that this does not mean a relaxation of the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.

In addition, the government demanded that officials fully implement measures to prevent outbreaks at livestock farms and in homes with domesticated animals, and instructed that animals with the slightest indication of infection be culled without any exceptions.

“The basic thrust of the revised Emergency Anti-epidemic Law is to ensure that the emergency anti-epidemic system has a prominent presence in every endeavor and that the system is balanced with economic activities,” the source said. “The government stressed that officials should work harder than ever during the month of June to prevent infections among people and animals, and called on them to remain dedicated to the emergency anti-epidemic system until the day it is repealed.”

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler.

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.