(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with more details)
By Chae Yun-hwan
SEOUL, July 1 (Yonhap) -- North Korean health authorities have concluded that its first cases of COVID-19 emerged from an area near the inter-Korean border, following an investigation on the transmission route of its virus outbreak, according to state media Friday.
"The investigation results showed that several persons coming from the area of Ipho-ri in Kumgang County in Kangwon Province to the capital city in mid-April were in fever," the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said in an English-language article. "A sharp increase of fever cases was witnessed among their contacts and that a group of fevered persons emerged in the area of Ipho-ri for the first time."
It added that an 18-year-old soldier and a 5-year-old kindergartener had contact with "alien things" in the area in early April and that they had tested positive for the virus after showing symptoms.
The North's Ipho-ri area borders South Korea's eastern counties of Inje and Yanggu in Gangwon Province.
It added that the State Emergency Epidemic Prevention Headquarters issued an instruction stressing the need to "vigilantly deal with alien things coming by wind and other climate phenomena and balloons in the areas along the demarcation line and borders."
Meanwhile, the country's new suspected COVID-19 cases remained below 5,000 for the second consecutive day, according to state media.
More than 4,570 people showed symptoms of fever over a 24-hour period until 6 p.m. the previous day, the KCNA said, citing data from the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters.
It did not provide information on whether additional deaths have been reported.
The total number of fever cases since late April came to over 4.74 million as of 6 p.m. Thursday, of which more than 4.73 million have recovered and at least 8,130 are being treated, it added.
The North announced its first COVID-19 case on May 12 and the daily new fever count has been on a downward trend after peaking at over 392,920 on May 15.
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