North Korea imposes ‘unprecedented’ coronavirus measures with month-long quarantines, foreign diplomats on lockdown and loudspeakers blaring out health warnings

Wednesday, February 26, 2020
By Paul Martin

State media is demanding ‘absolute obedience’ to Pyongyang health authorities
New arrivals are subject to 30 days’ isolation with authorities going door to door
North Korea claims it is the only neighbour of China not to have had a single case

DAILYMAIL.COM
26 February 2020

North Korea is taking ‘unprecedented’ measures against coronavirus with month-long quarantines, foreign diplomats locked in their compounds and loudspeakers blaring out health warnings.

State media is demanding ‘absolute obedience’ to health authorities as the secretive nation tries to shield itself from the virus that emerged in neighbouring China.

New arrivals are subject to 30 days’ isolation and authorities are conducting door-to-door health check-ups in an intensifying ‘anti-virus campaign’.

North Korea claims it is the only neighbour of China not to have had a single case.

Foreigners are facing tough restrictions: all of those resident in the country have been subjected to quarantine at their premises since the beginning of February.

Diplomats in Pyongyang have unable even to walk around the city in what the Russian ambassador described as a ‘morally crushing’ situation.

The embassy had been ‘left without diplomatic mail… we did not manage to get medicines and supplies for our first-aid post’, Alexander Matsegora told Russia’s TASS news agency.

Staff could only leave the premises – which have a prime location in Pyongyang close to the Workers’ Party leadership compound – to take rubbish to a landfill, when ‘Korean specialists immediately disinfect our truck at the gates of the embassy’.

The city’s Orthodox church, taekwondo gym, skating rink and swimming pool were all off-limits, as were Korean and painting classes. ‘They may seem trifles, but everyday life is made of them.’

Diplomatic work had been virtually suspended, he added, with no meetings, conversations or negotiations with North Korean officials or other embassies, while contact with the authorities was limited to phone calls or official notes dropped into a special mailbox.

Only a country as ‘unique’ as the North could take such a decision to address ‘a problem of national importance’ and implement it, he said, describing the situation as ‘extraordinary’.

‘In material terms, self-isolation is of course very expensive for the Korean state,’ he added.

But it would always be willing to pay that price, he went on: ‘It is very important to understand that the issues of state security, the ideology and dignity of the country – in its North Korean understanding, of course – always and definitely prevail over economic considerations.’

Those who expect sanctions to force the North to make concessions over its nuclear arsenal – negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington are currently deadlocked – should recognise that reality, he added.

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