North Koreans in border areas are becoming increasingly concerned with news of the coronavirus spreading aggressively in neighboring Russia, a Daily NK source reported on Apr. 23. 

Over 60,000 people have already contracted the virus in Russia. This has sparked renewed concern among health authorities in North Korea, who are urging the public to continue abiding by strict social distancing and personal hygiene directives. 

“As the disease continues to spread in Russia, residents in border regions are becoming increasingly nervous and lectures at local hospitals are taking place more often,” a source from Ryanggang Province told Daily NK on April 23. 

Explanatory medical lectures are being held at local quarantine and medical centers to try and inform residents on how best to prevent contracting the virus. Health authorities are also doubling down on reinforcing social distancing rules such as prohibiting gatherings of more than 6-10 people. 

The country’s main newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, has been reporting on the situation in Russia regularly. This steady stream of information has put local health authorities on high alert and resulted in their decision to continue enforcing strict preventive measures. 

“North Korean officials can’t afford to be complacent in monitoring the Russia situation as the consequences could be catastrophic,” the source added. 

Hospital staff and those working at quarantine facilities in the provinces know all too well that carelessness could result in death. 

Compared to ordinary residents, those working at quarantine centers and hospitals are reportedly feeling much more nervous. Whenever a suspected case is reported, these health workers have to go out and investigate immediately, no matter the time of day. They are on alert 24/7.   

Medical workers have made one thing very clear, according to the source: whether the virus spreads within the country or not will largely be attributed to individual actions. This is why they continue to stress the importance of personal hygiene and keeping to social distancing rules.   

*Translated by Gabriela Bernal

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

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Kang Mi Jin
Kang Mi Jin is a North Korean defector turned journalist who fled North Korea in 2009. She has a degree in economics and writes largely on marketization and economy-related issues for Daily NK. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.