North Korea sends 500 ‘workers’ to patrol its Chinese border amid coronavirus fears
- 500 Red Cross medics have been dispatched to North Korea’s border with China
- The workers will be tasked with helping quarantine efforts, the Red Cross said
- North Korea officially reports zero coronavirus cases, but few trust the figure
- Reports suggest five people have died in the city of Sinuiju, near the Chinese border, and the infection may have reached the capital Pyongyang
North Korea has dispatched 500 Red Cross workers to its border with China in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The workers will be used ‘for border quarantine operations’, the Red Cross said, without saying where exactly they were sent or when.
North Korea has officially denied having any coronavirus cases, but reports have suggested people are dying from the disease in the border city of Sinuiju and that infections may have reached the capital Pyongyang.
North Korea has dispatched 500 Red Cross workers to its border with China in order to help with ‘quarantine operations’ as coronavirus continues to spread
North Korea has not officially confirmed a case of coronavirus, though reports have suggested people died from the disease near the border and the infection has reached Pyongyang
Kim Jong-un’s regime, which keeps all public health data as a closely-guarded state secret, cancelled a planned military parade in the capital on Saturday with no warning given.
The annual event, to commemorate the founding of the country’s armed forces, typically draws huge crowds and is overseen by Kim himself – but this year did not go ahead and its absence was not noted by state-owned newspaper Rodong Sinmun.
Rodong has carried several statements by public heath officials urging people to watch out for suspected cases, warning the fate of the nation is at stake.
It has also published images of workers in hazmat suits disinfecting buses and trains in cities including Sinuiju.
North Korea has closed its borders to all international travellers, while road and rail links with ally China have either been closed or severely restricted.
Any North Korea citizen travelling outside the country will have to submit to health checks on their return, while all those arriving in the capital will also be tested.
Foreign emissaries, including from the UK, were have been instructed to stay inside a drab Soviet-era concrete diplomatic compound in Pyongyang.
Coronavirus has spread to almost 30 countries worldwide infecting more than 42,000 people and killing 1,000 – more than the SARS outbreak of 2003
North Korea’s public health system is almost non-existent, with the country perilously low on crucial supplies of medicines and other medical supplies.
If the virus begins to spread widely, then it could prove devastating to the nation’s 25million inhabitants who largely live in poverty.
The new strain of the coronavirus, temporarily dubbed 2019-nCoV, originated in Wuhan in central China about a month ago from an unknown source.
It has since spread to 30 countries and affected more than 43,000 people around the globe.
There have been two confirmed cases of the virus in Russia, with 144 people quarantined in a camp in Siberia over fears they have the infection.
Health officials say the illness is capable of spreading before symptoms show and about 20 per cent of patients become severely ill.
The symptoms include fever, coughing, shortness of breath and can progress to pneumonia and respiratory failure.
By Monday evening the coronavirus death toll topped 1,000 – surpassing the number of deaths counted during the 2003 SARS virus outbreak.