Coronavirus: North Korea trade official shot dead for breaking quarantine and secretly visiting public bath
The country has closed its border with China almost entirely and enforced a 30-day quarantine to stop the spread of the deadly virus
A North Korean official who recently returned from China has been executed for breaking his quarantine and accentuating the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus by going to a public bath, it has been claimed.
Dong-a-Ilbo, a newspaper in Korea since 1920 with a daily circulation of more than 1.2 million, reported that the trade official had gone against orders and secretly visited the public bath earlier this month. He was immediately caught, arrested, and shot.
The paper also said that another senior official of the country's State Security Department, an autonomous agency of the government which reports directly to supreme leader Kim Jong-un, had also been punished for hiding his visit to China in North Pyongan. However, he did not face as severe a punishment as his counterpart and was instead demoted and exiled to a farm.
The news comes in the wake of North Korea almost entirely blocking its border with China, the only country with who it maintains diplomatic relations, in a bid to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 that has infected more than 45,000 people worldwide.
It was also decreed that anyone who had been to China or been in contact with Chinese people would be quarantined, with Kim Jong-un vowing to "rule by military law" against anyone who had left such a quarantine without prior approval.
Tens of thousands of North Korean workers had been in China before the UN ordered Beijing to send them back in December, before the outbreak of the epidemic. However, it is unclear how many made it back across the border.
Earlier this week, Pyongyang announced that quarantines had been extended to 30 days, which is more than two times beyond the 14 days recommended by officials in the World Health Organization. Flights have also been reduced, with road and rail links similarly closed or heavily restricted. A blanket ban has been issued on foreign tourists.
In public announcements, North Korean media warned that all government institutions and foreigners living in the country have to obey this quarantine "unconditionally" or risk facing the consequences. They also reported that North Korea's Red Cross Society had been deployed to "relevant areas" around the country to monitor those showing any signs of symptoms.
"They are conducting information activities in various forms and by various methods at public places to introduce common medical knowledge about the epidemic and encourage people to give fuller play to the noble moral traits of helping and leading each other forward," KCNA confirmed.
Officials from the World Health Organization based in Pyongyang have said there has not yet been a confirmed case of the virus in North Korea.