North Korea introduces new pandemic law

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With claims to have found no positive case of the COVID-19 virus, North Korea seems to have introduced a new law dealing with the pandemic emergency.

State-run Minju Choson newspaper ran a series of pieces introducing the new “Emergency Quarantine Law” since last weekend, local NK News website reported on Wednesday.

The law details various “levels of disease-related red alerts and COVID-19 countermeasures”. It also explains measures as to how to handle patients who test positive for the coronavirus which has affected over 28 million people globally since first reported in Wuhan, China last December.

However, it is not yet clear when the law was formally introduced.

Late last month, Edwin Salvador, in-country World Health Organization (WHO) representative based in Pyongyang, had said that 3,374 North Koreans were tested for the coronavirus as of Sept. 17. “Every test has produced negative results,” Salvador had said.

The UN sanctions-crippled communist state has not yet officially declared any COVID-19 case inside its borders. The country has a population of over 25 million.

However, the North Korean authorities require people to wear face masks in public spaces across the country while COVID-19 related measures, including temperature checks, are still in place.

The new pandemic law says the country’s Central Emergency Anti-epidemic Headquarter is “responsible for anyone who tests positive for infectious disease”.

“If the initial test result is concluded as positive, the Central Emergency Anti-epidemic Headquarter should, most urgently, immediately organize secondary tests for all contacts – and the patient – using real-time checkup equipment,” the Minju Choson newspaper reported.

The law proclaims that the headquarter will have the final say “on any releases from quarantine”.

In July, North Korea had reported a “suspected” case in the border city of Kaesong. The case was said to be a former North Korean defector to South Korea who returned home across the Imjin River from Seoul side. The test result of the defector came out “inconclusive”.

The authorities had enforced a lockdown in the city to avoid any possible spread of the infection.

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