As the coronavirus infection crosses the 50000 infected mark some South Korean news outlets are reporting that the virus has arrived in North Korea. While there have been no official confirmation experts fear that North Korea isn’t equipped to fight an outbreak.
Isolated from the world in a number of different ways, when China declared its coronavirus infection, North Korea was one of the first countries that blocked the entry of foreign tourists into its borders. Furthermore, North Korea limited trade with China and curbed diplomatic travel into the country.
The news of the cancellation of an annual military parade by Kim Jong Un has further raised suspicion that there might be corona infection inside the country. At least two South Korean media outlets are claiming to have sources inside North Korea reporting on possible coronavirus cases in the country.
Stimson Centre North Korea expert Michael Madden says that bolstering public health had been a priority for Kim, but it may not be enough to combat the coronavirus. Chosun Ilbo, one of a South Korean newspaper, reported that there were at least two suspected cases of the illness in the city of Sinuiju, which is bordering with China. Daily North Korea reports that as many as five people have died of the novel coronavirus in the same city.
North Korean government has yet not reported a case of Coronavirus. Though isolation is nothing new for North Korea many health specialists think it might not be enough. The 880-mile border between China and North Korea is best described to be a porous boundary and smuggling is a common issue.
North Korean government has asserted on multiple occasions that everyone in the country gets medical treatment equally and free of charge a 2010 Amnesty International report called the country’s healthcare system “crumbling.” Health care volunteers expressed that while North Korea has the healthcare infrastructure to handle a health crisis, it might lack the medical supplies to prevent, diagnose, and treat the coronavirus.
Some experts say that the move to cancel the parade might be a preventive measure. They believe that if there was indeed an infection the country would ask for help, like how they did during the SARS outbreak.
All things said and done the North Korean government hasn’t yet issued a reason on why they have cancelled their annual military parade, which is a grand pride and day of spectacle for the whole country. One can only hope than if Coronavirus has indeed penetrated the North Korean soil, the government would further close down its borders; even from international help.