North Korean authorities recently handed down orders aimed at preventing both the spread of COVID-19 and other contagious diseases such as paratyphoid fever, typhoid and malaria, Daily NK has learned. 

“The government issued a series of orders at the beginning of June to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, and among them was an urgent order that stressed the need for managing other diseases in addition to the coronavirus,” a North Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK yesterday.

According to the source, the North Korean Ministry of Public Health warned each provincial party and people’s committee about the possible spread of paratyphoid fever, typhoid and malaria due to poor hygiene practices. The ministry issued an order to pay particular attention to patients with such diseases and provide proper medical care. 

The order highlighted the fact that although paratyphoid fever, typhoid and malaria are highly dangerous diseases, North Koreans tend to seek treatment from unlicensed individuals rather than at hospitals, raising the possibility that infectious diseases could grow or spread without a clear diagnosis.

The ministry stressed that disease prevention and medical centers must take clear measures to control the situation and prevent any diseases from spreading. The orders stipulated that all citizens with a fever of less than 37.8 degrees Celsius should self-isolate and that anyone with a fever above that should be admitted to a state-designated isolation ward.

More specifically, the ministry instructed health clinic physicians and staff at disease prevention centers to prioritize properly identifying and controlling pathogens. They were also ordered to conduct a survey of local citizens in their districts during the month of June to identify any health issues in partnership with local police officers. 

In consideration of the failure to properly sterilize the country’s water supply, the authorities directed North Koreans to boil water before drinking it, Daily NK’s source said. Disease prevention centers were also reportedly ordered to conduct regular and thorough hygiene inspections at restaurants.

“While the government is attempting to contain infections caused by COVID-10 and other diseases, people are saying that diseases are spreading because they aren’t getting enough food,” the source further reported. 

“North Koreans are criticizing the government’s move to consider all illnesses as due to infectious diseases when, in reality, people are falling ill due to weakened immune systems [caused by malnutrition],” he added.

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

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Kim Yoo Jin is one of Daily NK's freelance journalists. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.