SEOUL, South Korea — The United States expressed deep concern about North Korea’s vulnerability to the outbreak of a new virus and said it was ready to support efforts by aid organizations to contain the spread of the illness in the impoverished nation.
North Korea has moved to strengthen quarantines and other preventive measures to protect itself from the COVID-19 illness that has killed hundreds and sickened tens of thousands in China, North Korea’s neighbor and closest ally.
North Korea has yet to report a case of the new virus, but state media have hinted that an uncertain number of people have been quarantined after showing symptoms. Experts say an epidemic in North Korea could be dire because of its chronic lack of medical supplies and poor health care infrastructure.
“We strongly support and encourage the work of U.S. and international aid and health organizations to counter and contain the spread of coronavirus in the DPRK,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement, referring to North Korea by its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“The United States is ready and prepared to expeditiously facilitate the approval of assistance from these organizations.”
North Korea’s media have described the fight against the illness as a matter of “national existence.” It has shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned foreign tourists, intensified screening at airports, harbors and other land entry points, and mobilized some 30,000 health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms.
South Korea withdrew dozens of officials from an […]