February 13, 2020 / 3:47 AM / 12 days ago

No word of any cases, but North Korea steps up anti-virus campaign

SEOUL (Reuters) - While North Korea has yet to publicly confirm any cases of the new coronavirus, authorities have doubled down on prevention efforts, extending quarantines and dispatching Red Cross workers around the country, state media said.

On Wednesday, North Korean media announced that the quarantine period had been extended to 30 days, and that all government institutions as well as foreigners living in North Korea were expected to obey it “unconditionally.”

“The spread of the epidemic comes to be a serious problem with the possibility of international disaster,” state news agency KCNA said.

Already one of the most closed-off countries in the world, North Korea has stopped airline flights and train service with its neighbors, established weeks-long mandatory quarantines for recently arrived foreigners, suspended international tourism, and imposed a near-complete lockdown on cross-border travel.

Some South Korean media outlets have reported multiple cases and possible deaths from the virus in North Korea, but World Health Organization officials based in Pyongyang told Voice of America that they have not been notified of any confirmed cases.

State media reported that North Korea’s Red Cross Society had deployed to “relevant areas” around the country to conduct public education campaigns and to monitor people with possible symptoms.

“They are conducting information activities in various forms and by various methods at public places to introduce common medical knowledge about the epidemic and encourage people to give fuller play to the noble moral traits of helping and leading each other forward,” KCNA reported.

Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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