North Korean authorities in Ryanggang Province are organizing task forces in the province’s small and medium-sized cities and in rural areas to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Daily NK has learned.
The task forces are reportedly monitoring disease control procedures in local hospitals, businesses and government offices.
“Members of local party committees, people’s committees, hospitals and disease control facilities have been selected to take part in these new task forces,” a Ryanggang Province-based source told Daily NK on Feb. 14.
“The first task force was organized in Hyesan in late January and others were created in Sinpa County and other cities along the Sino-North Korean border in February,” the source continued, adding, “The groups were created after officials from the central government visited to check the province’s ability to control an outbreak.”
Daily NK sources said that no COVID-19 infections have yet occurred in Ryanggang Province, but that authorities continue to order local officials to take careful precautions to prevent an outbreak.
The task forces are reportedly visiting schools and businesses everyday to lecture for at least 10 minutes on the seriousness of COVID-19 and to encourage people to take personal hygiene seriously.
Daily NK sources reported that the task forces are also monitoring the movements of market merchants who have been selling their wares in rural areas for higher prices than normal.
Daily NK recently reported that North Korean authorities have implemented price controls at local markets and these prices controls have led to falling profits for market merchants.
“People in rural areas are forced to pay whatever the prices the merchants are selling their wares for – even if the prices are more expensive then what can be found in Hyesan Market,” one Ryanggang Province-based source said.
“[Through the task forces] the authorities are trying to crack down on the practice where merchants head to rural areas and sell their goods for higher-than-normal prices,” he added.
VINEGAR: A “CURE-ALL”
Daily NK sources also reported that because North Koreans are unable to obtain disinfectant and cleaners common in South Korea many are using vinegar to wash their hands. Vinegar prices have increased as a result, sources said.
“Vinegar bottle prices depend on the size of the bottle, but a 350 gram bottle of vinegar at Hyesan Market cost just KPW 5,000 in early January but now costs KPW 8,000,” one source said.
North Koreans believe that vinegar can strengthen their immunity, sources told Daily NK.
“People are eating hard-boiled eggs mixed with vinegar to protect their health,” a source noted, adding, “People are spending what money they have on buying vinegar because of concerns over their health” and that “Despite the lackluster business environment at the markets and the rise in market prices, the increase in demand for vinegar has made vinegar sellers a lot of money.”
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