Three soldiers guarding the Sino-North Korean border in Chagang Province recently died after suffering from fevers and breathing problems, Daily NK has learned.
All of the soldiers were in their late teens and early twenties and were stationed at a sentry post near the Wiwon Dam in Chagang Province, according to a Daily NK source in the North Korean military.
They reportedly began suffering from fevers and severe breathing problems on the evening of Mar. 14, but had complained of fevers, coughing and headaches for three days. Despite their condition, they still continued to work and were told to take cold medicine and fever reducers.
When the soldiers began suffering from intense fevers and severe breathing problems, they were sent to the emergency room in a local hospital in Kanggye’s Sokhyon neighborhood.
All three of the soldiers died on Mar. 16, two days after they had been admitted to the hospital.
“The soldiers’ corpses are still in the hospital mortuary. Their bodies will be disinfected and then transported back to their military unit for burial,” the source said.
PANIC IN THE RANKS
Their death sparked panic among the military’s leadership, which initially believed that the men had died of COVID-19 infections.
Hospital and military authorities, however, ultimately ruled that the deaths were caused by acute pneumonia, not the novel coronavirus, and even claimed that the deaths were the result of “pre-existing conditions,” not COVID-19.
Military leaders, however, have put in place measures that suggest the deaths were indeed caused by COVID-19.
For one, all military commanders, political officers, military doctors and nurses have been told to maintain “complete silence” about the incident.
The authorities also disinfected the sentry post on Mar. 16, and the head of the post, along with the 10 or so soldiers under his charge, were sent to a public building in Kanggye’s Sinmun neighborhood where suspected COVID-19 infection cases are being quarantined.
Furthermore, the guard post has been shut down and soldiers from other units have been temporarily assigned to the area to watch the border. They are reportedly staying in a nearby dormitory for visitors.
Military leaders appear to be closely observing the health of soldiers in the border patrol. Any soldiers with light fevers, headaches, diarrhea, coughing or chest pains have been ordered to report themselves immediately to the appropriate authorities.
Border patrol units are also reportedly holding training sessions focused on how to deal with COVID-19.
“According to the lectures, the coronavirus will die after 30 minutes or more in temperatures of 56 degrees Celsius,” another source told Daily NK.
“They’ve also emphasized rules like consuming only cooked food, boiling water for consumption, and washing vegetables in flowing water,” he added.
Border guard sentry posts are also reportedly required to disinfect their cooking utensils for more than one hour, three times a day.
*Translated by Violet Kim
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