KEY POINTS

  • The World Health Organization said Tuesday there are "no indications" of coronavirus cases in North Korea
  • North Korea has a strict quarantine policy to prevent the spread of the virus
  • The country could be poorly equipped to handle the outbreak, due to its lackluster healthcare system

The World Health Organization said Tuesday there are “no indications” of coronavirus cases in North Korea as the country embraces a strict quarantine policy.

“At the moment there are no signals, there are no indications we are dealing with any COVID-19 there,” Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of WHO’s emergencies program, said Tuesday, using the official name for the virus.

North Korean officials have frequently denied the presence of coronavirus in the country.

Han Tae Song, North Korea’s envoy to the United Nations, has said there are no current cases of the virus on North Korean territory, and claimed that there is a “strict quarantine in certain areas for certain times.” 

“I was informed that we extended the quarantine, actually it was 14 days, but according to scientific results, coronavirus could break out even 3 weeks later. That is why we extended to 30 days quarantine. ... Prevention is less cost than cure,” Han told Reuters Wednesday. He added travelers who came to North Korea from other countries are top suspects for the virus.

Harry Kazianis, director of Korean Studies at Center for National Interest, told Fox News that North Korea is “clearly lying” about coronavirus cases in the country. 

“There is no way that North Korea is not being impacted by the coronavirus — they are clearly lying as they don’t want to show any weakness or that there is any threat to the regime,” Kazianis said. “Considering how there are many porous sections of the North Korea-China border — and how the Kim regime depends on illegal trade to survive — it is clear the virus has come to North Korea.”

The coronavirus could have a dangerous impact on North Korea, with Amnesty International having described the country’s healthcare system as “crumbling.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has asked for sanctions to be relieved against North Korea, in order for the organization to better provide humanitarian aid to the isolated nation. The U.S. said it would facilitate the work of humanitarian groups in the country. 

“We strongly support and encourage the work of U.S. and international aid and health organizations to counter and contain the spread of coronavirus in the DPRK,” State Department Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

The coronavirus outbreak originated at an animal and seafood market in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The virus has infected over 75,000 people worldwide, with the grand majority of the cases in China. The death toll stands at over 2,000. 

South Korea saw its total number of coronavirus cases increase by nearly 50% on Wednesday, with 15 new cases being confirmed. This raises the total number of cases in the country from 31 to 46.