The secretive state claims it is the only neighbour of China not to have reported a single case of the invisible killer disease coronavirus since the outbreak. But sources told Radio Free Asia’s Korean Service officials have shut down the country’s third-largest city, Chongjin following COVID-19 outbreaks at two major factories.
A resident of North Hamgyong, who did not want to be named, said: “Since the beginning of this month, coronavirus is again spreading in and around Chongjin, causing an emergency at the provincial quarantine centre.”
A North Korean source told the news site steel and construction workers were struck with symptoms of the fatal virus, sparking the lockdown.
Residents of Chongjin and North Hamgyong have been ordered to stay indoors and visitors from the neighbouring Ryanggang province are not allowed to enter the city.
The source said: “The provincial quarantine centre and law enforcement authorities quickly imposed a ban on the movement of residents, saying it is to prevent the spread of infection.
“It’s been reported that about 10 patients with symptoms are workers at the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex and the Second Metal Construction Complex.
“Those complexes are supersized facilities with tens of thousands of employees. The companies are large enough to run hospitals on their own, but they are unable to provide proper treatment other than merely isolating the patients.
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A report obtained by Daily NK shows that 212 of those quarantined are in North Pyongan Province, 65 in South Pyongan Province, 140 in North Hamgyong Province, 80 in South Hamgyong Province, 123 in Chagang Province, 77 in Ryanggang Province, 32 in South Hwanghae Province, nine in North Hwanghae Province, and 29 in Kangwon Province.
There are also 37 people in quarantine facilities in Nampo and another 61 in Rason.
It comes amid simmering tensions along the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea and North Korean defectors have been plotting to fly propaganda leaflets over to the North, which has angered the Kim regime.
Pyongyang has claimed this violates an agreement between the two countries, which was put in place to help simmer military confrontation.
North Korea decided to retaliate against the South by blowing up a joint liaison office this month.
The four-storey office was constructed in 2018 as a way to help ease tensions between the two powers and act as a centre to work on peace agreements.
However, when the North decided to destroy the building it brought an end to positive communications with the South and it seems like the situation has now only regressed.