North Korean City of Chongjin on Lockdown After New COVID-19 Outbreak

Sandra Loyd

A new COVID-19 outbreak at 2 significant factories in the North Korean commercial center of Chongjin has actually triggered authorities to block the nation’s 3rd biggest city, an extreme action not seen in Pyongyang’s preliminary substantial actions to the pandemic in January, sources informed RFA.

While North Korea openly declares that it has actually not verified a single case of the coronavirus within its borders, RFA reported in January that the federal government informed people in a series of lectures that the infection had actually spread out in 3 parts of the nation, consisting of North Hamgyong province. Chongjin, a commercial center with a population of 625,000, is the provincial capital.

“Since the beginning of this month, coronavirus is again spreading in and around Chongjin, causing an emergency at the provincial quarantine center,” a local of North Hamgyong, who asked for privacy for security factors, informed RFA’s Korean Service Sunday.

“The provincial quarantine center and law enforcement authorities quickly imposed a ban on the movement of residents, saying it is to prevent the spread of infection,” stated the source.

The new outbreak emerged recently amongst steel and building and construction employees, disconcerting people in Chongjin’s Songpyong district, according to the source.

“It’s been reported that about 10 patients with symptoms are workers at the Kim Chaek Iron and Steel Complex and the Second Metal Construction Complex,” the source stated.

“[Those complexes] are supersized centers with 10s of thousands of staff members. The business are big enough to run medical facilities on their own, however they are not able to supply correct treatment aside from simply separating the clients,” the source added.

“Because several workers came down with severe pneumonia-like symptoms at the plants, the provincial committee temporarily suspended operations,” the source stated.

The lockdown impacts more than Chongjin and North Hamgyong. People from surrounding Ryanggang province had actually been going into the seaside province to look for food, as lacks at home left lots of starving, according to a Ryanggang local who asked for privacy to speak easily.

“As the food situation in Ryanggang has become difficult these days, the provincial party has been allowing people to move to other regions to get food, but now movement into North Hamgyong, especially Chongjin, is completely prohibited,” the second source stated.

The second source stated the Ryanggang authorities have actually entirely stopped releasing travel passes for those wanting to go to Chongjin.

“Even when the coronavirus was in full swing, they never stopped us from trying to go to a specific city. But Chongjin is now a no-movement zone, so the situation seems to be serious now,” the second source stated.

Though North Korean media typically keeps people in one part of the nation in the dark about happenings in other parts of it, news of Chongjin’s lockdown has actually infected Ryanggang regardless of the motion restriction.

“The situation in Chongjin is frequently reported through our mobile phones,” the second source stated.

“Not only have we heard that residents’ movement has been restricted, news that the large factories have been shut down has also spread to Ryanggang,” the second source stated.

“If they are not letting people move around and they can’t report to work at those factories, it’s going to be hard for them to make a living,” stated the second source.

“The authorities are only enforcing their lockdown, ignoring the residents’ livelihood. I can only imagine how much trouble the people of Chongjin are going through.”

North Korea suffered a substantial financial shock in January when the COVID-19 pandemic required a shutdown of its border with China, its main source of food and other materials, and the biggest market for North Korean products and labor, even under sanctions targeted at rejecting Pyongyang money for its nuclear and rocket programs.

RFA tried to call the World Health Organization (WHO) relating to the spread of COVID-19 inside North Korea, however those queries went unanswered as of Wednesday afternoon. The WHO’s coronavirus data are based on the self-reporting of each member state.

Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Equated by Leejin Jun. Composed in English by Eugene Whong.

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