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Coronavirus: North Korea orders construction of ‘crucial’ new hospital while still claiming no cases

The Independent logo The Independent 3/19/2020 Kate Ng
a man holding a sign © Provided by The Independent

North Korea premier Kim Jong Un has ordered the construction of a “modern general hospital” to be finished in the “shortest period”, despite claiming the country has zero cases of coronavirus infections.

State media broadcast a speech by Kim on Tuesday, who said the "crucial undertaking" is to be built to “protect and improve the health of the people”.

Kim, leader and chairman of the ruling Worker’s Party, said building the hospital is a top priority and ordered for the project to be finished before the 75th founding anniversary of the party, in early October.

The party insisted the project was a long time in the making and said it was “miserably self-critical” there was no “perfect and modern medical service establishment even in the capital city”.

“True to the Party’s lofty intention to develop our socialist public health service into the most people-oriented, advanced one which takes full responsibility for protecting all people’s life and promoting their health, we should turn out as one for the effort to finish the construction project unconditionally by the 75th founding anniversary of the Party,” he said.

He summoned all “civilian and military officers and builders” to “work an unprecedented miracle” in constructing the “gigantic project”.

North Korea’s official stance has been to deny anyone in North Korea has been infected with the virus, which experts remain skeptical of due to its borders with China and South Korea, both home to huge numbers of coronavirus cases.

Slideshow by photo services

But South Korean media outlets reported a large number of coronavirus-related deaths in the secretive hermit kingdom.

180 North Korean soldiers reportedly died earlier this year and another 3,700 were put in quarantine, reported South Korean news organisation Daily NK.

South Korea’s state agency Yonhap News Agency reported even larger numbers of people under quarantine, as many as 10,000.

North Korea has consistently refused to disclose information about the virus except to deny its existence in the country.

Over 40 per cent of the population is vulnerable to disease and undernourished due to years of mismanaged economic activities and famine, meaning North Koreans are at huge risk of dying in massive numbers as the disease spreads through Asia.

Earlier this month, state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun said: “The infectious disease did not flow into our country yet.”

South Korea reported over 8,500 coronavirus infections and 91 deaths, while China has had 80,928 cases and 3,245 deaths.

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