According to state media, Pyongyang is taking strong steps to remove “uncivilized and unsanitary elements” that could contribute to the spread of an epidemic.
North Korea is further tightening restrictions on entering its maritime border as part of increased steps to combat the coronavirus pandemic, state media said on Sunday, two days after South Korea said the north had banned sea fishing.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the country is mobilizing more antivirus units over the winter and is taking strong steps to “completely remove uncivilized and unsanitary elements that could help make way for an epidemic to spread”.
Some experts say that the coronavirus can spread further in cold weather when people typically spend more time indoors.
KCNA said officials were building firm epidemic measures along the border areas to prevent the coronavirus from entering the country. In coastal areas on the front lines, authorities are developing stricter rules for setting out at sea and collecting dirty material in the waters, according to the KCNA.
North Korea has claimed not a single virus case has been found on its territory, a claim that has been widely questioned by outside experts. Despite his claims, North Korea has been quick to seal its borders, flown diplomats and isolated residents with symptoms. A sizeable outbreak in North Korea could be devastating as the health system is broken and there is a chronic shortage of medicines.
North Korea has already mentioned a restriction on entry into its sea area.
Sunday’s report came after the South Korean espionage service told lawmakers on Friday that the north’s antivirus measures included a ban on fishing and salt production at sea, as well as the lockdown of the capital, Pyongyang, northern Jagang Province and other areas.
Legislators, who attended the meeting in camera, quoted the National Intelligence Service as saying that North Korea executed an official for violating regulations restricting imports of goods in August and a money changer for a falling exchange rate in October.
Ha Tae-keung, one of the lawmakers, quoted the agency as saying that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was showing “excessive anger” and taking “irrational measures” against the pandemic and its economic impact.
In September, South Korea accused North Korea of fatally shooting a South Korean fisheries officer found in northern waters before burning his body, apparently in line with an anti-virus policy that illegally shot people across the border. North Korea later admitted and apologized for the murder but claimed it only burned his floating device, not his body.