North Korea has blamed “aliens” near the border with the South for spreading COVID

North Korea has blamed "aliens" near the border with the South for spreading COVID
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People watch television on May 17, 2022, at a train station in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on an outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in North Korea. REUTERS / Kim Hong-Ji / File Photo

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SEOUL, July 1 (Reuters) – North Korea claimed on Friday that the country’s first COVID-19 epidemic began when patients touched “alien objects” near the border with South Korea and probably blamed a neighbor for a wave of infection in an isolated area. country.

The official KCNA news agency said the North, which announced the study’s findings, had ordered people to “be careful with wind and other climatic events and balloons with alien objects coming along the demarcation line and borders.”

The agency did not directly mention South Korea, but North Korean refugees and activists have been crossing the heavily fortified border from the south for decades, carrying leaflets and balloons carrying humanitarian aid.

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South Korea’s unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said there was “no possibility” that the virus could enter the North through leaflets sent across the border.

According to the KCNA, an 18-year-old soldier and a five-year-old kindergarten worker who came into contact with unknown materials on a hill around barracks and residential areas in eastern Kumgang province in early April showed symptoms and then tested positive. coronavirus.

The KCNA said all other fevers reported in the country by mid-April were related to other illnesses, but did not provide details.

Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the North Korean Research University in Seoul, said, “Given the low probability of the virus spreading through objects, it’s hard to believe North Korea’s claim from a scientific point of view.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk of people becoming infected with COVID through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects is generally considered low, although it is possible.

North also said the first two patients touched unidentified objects in the eastern town in early April, but it was first discovered in late April in the western Gimpo area that a group of defectors had felt balloons crossing the border this year. read more

The first outbreak of a COVID epidemic in the north came months after easing border locks applied since early 2020 to restore freight train operations with China.

Lim Eul-chul, a professor at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University, says it would be difficult for Pyongyang to point fingers at China.

“If they came to the conclusion that the virus came from China, they would have to tighten quarantine measures in the border area for another setback in North Korean-Chinese trade,” Lim said.

Although experts gave little information in figures released through government-controlled media, the North claimed that the COVID wave was showing signs of declining.

North Korea said on Friday it had another 4,570 people with signs of fever and the total number of malaria cases since late April was 4.74 million.

Pyongyang announces without specifying whether patients with fever are infected with COVID every day, probably due to the lack of test kits.

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Interview by Soo-hyang Choi and Josh Smith; Edited by Leslie Adler, Richard Chang and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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