North Korea’s efforts at disease control to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 have been rudimentary at best, Daily NK sources have reported.
North Korean disease control authorities reportedly lack materials and equipment needed to perform their job properly and have had to rely on campaigns aimed at encouraging disinfection and personal hygiene.
Sinuiju, a major trade hub located on the Yalu River, faces a particularly grave threat from the novel coronavirus, but city authorities have largely failed to assure the population that they have things under control, Daily NK sources said.
“Disease control authorities are simply holding meetings everyday to discuss what to do [to prevent an outbreak],” a North Pyongan Province-based source told Daily NK on Feb. 17. “The only measures they are really discussing are ways to restrict the movement of people. They really have no other options on the table.”
One example of the government’s lack of preparation is that the central government is calling on local authorities to create their own stores of disinfectant.
“In Sinuiju, disease control authorities are watering down hydrochloric acid to make chlorine dioxide for use as a disinfectant in various businesses and hospitals, and to disinfect various products and medical devices,” the source said.
Sinuiju reportedly faces a serious threat of an outbreak because a large number of Chinese tourists visited the city before North Korean authorities shut down the border with China. Sinuiju sits across from Dandong, which has seven reported cases of COVID-19 infections.
Daily NK sources in the city speculated earlier this month that five North Koreans have already died from COVID-19 infections.
Despite the danger the city faces, Sinuiju’s disease control authorities have largely failed to take proper measures to prevent an outbreak. This dire state of affairs is compounded by the fact that North Korea’s administrative, medical and public health systems are poorly run.
North Korea’s own state media provided a glimpse into the country’s lack of preparation to prevent an outbreak through an article published in Rodong Sinmun on Feb. 16.
The article admonished both officials and ordinary citizens for “not having their head on straight” about the novel coronavirus and that their attitude was contributing to a lack of preparations to prevent an outbreak.
“Some people are simply thinking that they won’t get infected by the disease because the border has been shutdown,” the article said.
North Korea has yet to officially confirm any COVID-19 infections.
Anxiety among North Koreans is growing because North Korean state media continues to promote the dangers of COVID-19, Daily NK sources said.
“Even people who didn’t think much about getting infected are getting scared because of all the [government’s] talk about the virus,” one source told Daily NK. “People are unsure what to do, however, because everyone still needs to go about their daily business [to survive].”
The source did report that people who can are going outside less, except for when its absolutely necessary; however, he noted that “those eking out a living have to work harder than ever at the local markets to survive.”
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