North Korean officials are telling people in the country to use “salt water” to disinfect their hands and surfaces in their homes and workplaces, Daily NK has learned. 

The emphasis on salt water comes as North Korean officials are stressing the need for the population to implement “special disease control measures” mentioned by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during an expanded meeting of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s Politburo in late February. 

At the meeting, Kim stressed the need for unconditional obedience to “the command and control of the Central Headquarters for the emergency anti-epidemic work and thoroughly execute instructions from it, and to further tighten the system of reporting to the Party, [including] legal surveillance.” Kim also called for sealing off “all the channels and space through which the infectious disease may find its way, and strengthen check-up, test and quarantine under the work system and order already in place.”

Daily NK sources in South Hamgyong Province have reported that following the expanded meeting, daily educational sessions are being conducted by disease control officials at workplaces and through inminban (neighborhood watch-like units). 

“They have told us that the next month is very important [for controlling the spread of the coronavirus],” one source told Daily NK. 

North Korean disease control officials in Tanchon, South Hamgyong Province, are reportedly telling the population that the coronavirus will “lose its ability to spread” once the weather gets warmer after March passes. 

READILY AVAILABLE DISINFECTANT: “SALT WATER”

Sources in the province also reported that when local workers asked for sterilization products to disinfect surfaces at their workplaces disease control officials told them to just use water mixed with salt. 

“Disease control officials told us that consuming ‘sufficient’ quantities of salt will help defend against the spread of infectious disease, and that salt can be used to disinfect both the hands and mouths,” one source told Daily NK.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has not promoted the idea that salt water can help defend against infectious diseases. 

CLOSELY WATCHING FOR SYMPTOMS

Daily NK’s source in South Hamgyong Province also reported that inminban and workplaces are required to immediately report all cases of fever and coughing to disease control officials. All reported cases are sent to hospitals for medical examinations and their names are placed on a list so they can be closely observed for symptoms. 

The list must be submitted to the local people’s committee and police station at the beginning of each work day, the source said. 

“Disease control officials have emphasized that Kim Jong Un has lost sleep over trying to come up with measures to counter the disease and save his people,” the source said. 

“They have told us to show our gratitude toward him and follow the guidelines [handed down by the government],” he added. 

According to sources in South Hamgyong Province, the North Korean leader has reportedly ordered that anyone failing to adhere to disease control measures, including restrictions on domestic travel, will be considered guilty of treason and punished accordingly.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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.