(ATTN: ADDS calls for belt-tightening in last 3 paras)
By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Feb. 26 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's official newspaper on Wednesday called for "absolute obedience" to state guidance and "belt-tightening" amid nationwide efforts to prevent the outbreak of the new coronavirus.
North Korea has not reported any COVID-19 infection, but its media outlets have almost daily made a pitch for stepped-up preventive efforts against the virus.
"We should bear in mind that any moment of complacency could result in irreversible catastrophic consequences and should maintain a high state of alert," the Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North's ruling party, said in an article.
"(All) should show absolute obedience to unified guidance by the makeshift central public health committee and state measures," the paper added.
The paper discouraged people from gathering in large numbers both indoors and outdoors until the national emergency status declared late last month will be lifted. It also called for rigorous quarantine not just for people but also for imported goods as part of increased anti-virus efforts.
North Korea has been relatively quick to take preventive action against the virus since its first reported outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late December.
Pyongyang has tightened its border with China, doubled the quarantine period for those coming from overseas countries to a month and canceled a major international marathon event scheduled for mid-April.
Observers still express concern that North Korea could be more vulnerable as it shares a long and porous border with China, and lacks key medical supplies and infrastructure to test and treat infected people.
The paper also urged "belt-tightening" among its people amid speculation about the negative impact that anti-coronavirus measures, including the shutdown of the border with China, could have on the North's weak economy.
"When we mobilize and use more effectively the economic base and production potential secured through belt-tightening, we will be able to bring our economy on a normal track," the paper said in an editorial.
Experts say that tightened border controls and ongoing anti-virus efforts might hurt Pyongyang's already fragile economy by disrupting trade with China and imports of key materials.
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