(ATTN: ADDS details on preventive measures in paras 6-7)
By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Feb. 24 (Yonhap) -- North Korean state media reported Monday that Pyongyang has quarantined about 380 foreigners as part of efforts to prevent the new coronavirus from breaking out in the country.
North Korea has not reported any case of COVID-19 infection since the flu-like illness was first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December, but it has taken various preventive measures against the virus to block its outbreak on its soil.
"(We) have quarantined some 380 foreigners so far across the country, while intensifying isolation, medical monitoring and testing measures on those who have returned from overseas travel, those who have contacted them and those showing abnormal symptoms," according to the Korean Central Broadcasting Station.
The state radio did not provide details on the identities of the foreigners, but they appear to be diplomats stationed in Pyongyang and people involved in overseas trading.
It emphasized that stepped-up preventive measures have been taken, in particular, in North Pyongan Province, a northwestern region bordering China, saying that around 3,000 people are under monitoring for apparently showing suspected symptoms.
North Korea has also beefed up the quarantining and disinfection of imported goods as part of efforts to block all possible transmission routes.
North Korea's official newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, said that Pyongyang has distributed new disinfection, screening and quarantine guidelines urging officials to enforce more rigorous inspections on goods shipped from overseas through its border with China and major seaports.
North Korea has taken relatively swift preventive measures against the new coronavirus by tightening its border with China and doubling the quarantine period to 30 days against those coming from foreign countries.
Despite its repeated claims of no confirmed infection, concerns are growing that North Korea could be more vulnerable as it shares a long and porous border with the virus-hit China, and lacks key medical supplies and infrastructure to test and treat infected people.
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