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(2nd LD) No report of new coronavirus in N. Korea yet: WHO

All News 22:27 February 12, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS decision to lengthen quarantine period in paras 8-10)

SEOUL, Feb. 12 (Yonhap) -- No report of an outbreak of the new coronavirus has been received from North Korea's government, the World Health Organization's office in Pyongyang was quoted as saying.

The office told the Voice of America that it "has not received any report of coronavirus cases from the Ministry of Public Health, Democratic People's Republic of Korea," referring to the North's official name.

"WHO is working with all Member States, including DPR Korea, to respond to the new coronavirus," the office was quoted as saying.

At the North's request, WHO is also providing "laboratory reagents and personal protective equipment -- which comprises goggles, gloves, masks, gowns -- for use by health workers," the office said.

It was believed to be the first time that WHO has mentioned whether or not there is an outbreak of the virus in the communist nation, though the U.S. agency relies on voluntary reporting by its member states for the official tally.

North Korean media outlets have claimed that there have been no confirmed cases of the virus infection, though it did say some people have been isolated for showing suspected symptoms.

Pyongyang has been intensifying efforts to prevent an outbreak of the new coronavirus, including tightening its borders with China and strengthening the quarantine for people arriving from the neighboring country.

In the latest precautionary move, state media on Wednesday reported that the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA) adopted an emergency measure to lengthen the quarantine period to 30 days, much longer than the 14 days presumed to be the incubation period of the virus.

The decision was made as some research results raised a possibility that the virus might have an incubation period of 24 days. The North has been known to isolate people at risk for 15 days.

"All the institutions and fields of the state and foreigners staying in the DPRK should obey it unconditionally," the Korean Central News Agency said, reporting on the SPA's decision.

A North Korean state radio broadcast earlier reported that North Korea is making it mandatory for its people in Pyongyang to wear face masks when they use the subway in the latest effort to guard against the virus.

"(North Korea) has enforced and is sticking to a system in which anyone not wearing a mask should be blocked (from entering Pyongyang's subway station)," it said.

julesyi@yna.co.kr
(END)

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