SEOUL, Feb. 20 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is making all-out efforts to prevent the new coronavirus from reaching the country, including extending the quarantine period for higher-risk people to 30 days, Pyongyang's ambassador to Geneva was quoted as saying.
Ambassador Han Tae-song made the remarks in an interview with Reuters, stressing that the communist nation has not seen any confirmed case yet of the deadly virus that has killed more than 2,000 people in neighboring China alone.
"I was informed that we extended the quarantine, actually it was 14 days, but according to scientific results, coronavirus could break out even three weeks later. That is why we extended to 30 days quarantine," he was quoted as saying by Reuters. "Prevention is less cost than cure."
It was the first time that a North Korean official has confirmed the stricter quarantine's implementation after the North's state media recently announced that the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly adopted "emergency" measures to double the isolation period to 30 days.
Han said there has been no case of new coronavirus infection in North Korea. Asked whether there are any suspected cases, he did not provide a direct answer but noted, "The main suspects could be travelers who visited other countries."
The World Health Organization's office in Pyongyang earlier said that there are no indications for any coronavirus outbreak in North Korea. The North's health minister appeared on state TV this week, assuring that the country remains free of the virus.
North Korea has taken relatively swift preventive measures against COVID-19 by tightening its border with China that's the hardest-hit country and increased quarantine against those coming from foreign countries.
Concerns are growing that the North could be more vulnerable to the highly contagious virus as it lacks key medical supplies to diagnose and treat infected people.
International assistance groups have been calling for exemptions of sanctions to make it easier to provide necessary aid to the North in its fight against the virus.
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