North Korea reports first 'suspected' COVID-19 case, imposes maximum emergency system

North Korea reports first 'suspected' COVID-19 case, imposes maximum emergency system

North Korea has imposed a lockdown in Kaesong city, claiming that the country's first suspected case of the coronavirus has been discovered there, AFP reported on Sunday.

State media in North Korea says the suspected COVID-19 case involves a person who defected to South Korea three years ago and has now returned across the fortified border that divides the two Koreas.

South Korea's military said in a statement that its Joint Chiefs of Staff is inspecting the relevant surveillance recordings.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un convened an emergency meeting of the ruling Workers' Party and adopted a "maximum emergency system" against the coronavirus pandemic after a defector returned from South Korea with symptoms of the deadly virus.

Until now, Pyongyang had insisted that not a single infection had breached the country's borders, which remain closed, media reports said.

Since the first suspected Covid-19 case in North Korea is said to have come from a person who crossed into the country from South Korea via the North-South border, it could provide Pyongyang with a chance to blame a possible future internal Covid-19 crisis on external factors.

In January, Pyongyang severed most land, sea and air routes connecting the country with China and Russian Federation.

People wearing face masks to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus pass by a directional sign showing the distance to North Korea's city Kaesong and South Korea's capital Seoul at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju, near the border with North Korea, Sunday, July 26, 2020.

In the meeting, Kim declared a state of emergency over the Kaesong area and talked about lockdown measures there which were put in place late Friday shortly after the suspected case was reported. Numerous antiviral emergency measures outlined by Kim, like the blockade of an entire city, were unprecedented, suggesting the extent to which officials fear the devastation the virus can potentially wreak on the country's ill-equipped health care system.

"It could be reaching out to the world for help".

Meanwhile, the total number of global coronavirus cases has topped 15.6 million- 15,668,380 to be specific, while the deaths have increased to 638,243.

The complaint did not describe which countries are receiving the illegal shipments, but, according to the monthly Security Council report, the only official shipments they have received have been delivered by Russian Federation and China.

"The military is looking into the detailed routes, seeing high chances of a certain person's border crossing into the North. Perhaps for humanitarian assistance".

The complaint has also called for nations to "immediately exercise enhanced vigilance" to prevent the illegal shipment of oil to North Korea, which has been under UN Security Council sanctions since 2006, as they have continuously sought to strengthen its nuclear weapons program.

More than 33,000 North Koreans have fled to the South since the early 1990s to escape poverty and political oppression.

Cheong, however, said it was unlikely that the North's claim of the person crossing the border was false because it couldn't punish its own military unit with a fabricated announcement. North Korea's formal name is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).

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