North Korean officials shown in a discussion in this photo published on May 15. (Rodong Sinmun-News1)

North Korea’s State Emergency Anti-epidemic Command recently sent “public health administrative instructions” to its local command centers on how to cope with infections of COVID-19.

“On May 13, SEAC sent the instructions to each province’s emergency anti-epidemic commands. These instructions carefully laid out a number of details and medical techniques to deal with the ‘malicious epidemic’ [COVID-19],” the source said. 

According to the source, the instructions first expressed admiration about “Juche Korea,” the only country without a single COVID-19 patient in the whole world, the status and structure of its public health system, the country’s self-reliant economic structure, and the power of a socialist Korea united single-heartedly around the Workers’ Party. The document then went on to emphasize that the country had made the “great decision” to improve the welfare and health of its citizens and has been making “maximum efforts” to strengthen its disease control measures.

However, the instructions stressed that the containment and emergency anti-epidemic system will be extended to the fullest extent now that there are COVID-19 cases in the “revolutionary capital” of Pyongyang. They also stressed that emergency anti-epidemic commands in each region should cooperate with medical and anti-epidemic workers equipped with “specialized anti-epidemic rules and regulations,” as well as common sense regarding public health, to ensure that their anti-epidemic work is effective. 

The instructions further ordered emergency anti-epidemic commands to acquire “international academic knowledge” on coping with the pandemic through information posted on the state-run computer network (intranet) during a time when knowledge and countermeasures to deal with the coronavirus are emerging worldwide. 

The document also pointed out that anti-epidemic measures based on common sense regarding public health must be carried out to intensively combat the sources of the disease.

While mentioning the transition of the state anti-epidemic system to the “maximum emergency anti-epidemic system,” the instructions ordered that workers in the health sector adopt scientific and technical knowledge and global quarantine common sense “in our own style,” and find a balance between national mobilizations, economic activities, organizational life, the promotion of health and hygiene, and anti-epidemic measures.

“The State Emergency Anti-epidemic Command ordered health workers not to be too afraid of the rapid spread of the disease but rather to overcome it with ‘revolutionary will,’ stressing the idea that they can get through the crisis simply by doing what the party says,” the source said. 

After receiving the instructions from Pyongyang, the emergency anti-epidemic command in North Hamgyong Province ordered the establishment of a consultation system, notification system, and unified command system where staff in the party committee, people’s committee, police and security agencies, and the military gather in an office to share updates about the COVID-19 situation for one hour each day. 

According to the source, the province’s emergency anti-epidemic command emphasized that it is important to prevent mass outbreaks of COVID-19 through various methods by classifying places where many people gather by region. It also emphasized that it is necessary to maintain stronger border security since the China-North Korea border is close by.

The translator requested anonymity. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

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

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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.