◆ No PCR coronavirus tests for ordinary people?

Hospitals and quarantine centers are still unable to conduct coronavirus tests. Instead, areas suspected of having outbreaks are unconditionally sealed off and sprayed with salt water and disinfectants. According to the reporting partner, the quarantine period is set at 20 days, so people are under pressure to not say anything if they have caught a cold.

As of September 5, reporting partners in other cities in Ryanggang and North Hamkyung Province could provide no information to suggest that coronavirus testing was underway in their areas.

Coronavirus testing kits have been provided to North Korea by Russia, China, and international agencies since April but, as of September, provincial cities do not seem to be equipped to provide testing. It seems, therefore, that the Kim Jong-un regime is implementing testing primarily for regions and institutions that it values most.

A reporting partner living in Ryanggang Province also attested to the overly strict controls.

“The markets have not been closed but body temperatures are measured at the entrances. If a person displays symptoms, the quarantine office will place the person and their entire neighborhood in lockdown. Compulsory quarantining is conducted in homes rather than at special facilities. Barriers are set up to blockade the residential areas that are locked down and officers stand guard to keep people away. Food is a problem for those under quarantine. No matter how large a family is, households only receive 10 kilograms of corn, which is delivered through their place of employment. No other food is provided and, by the time the quarantine period is over, everyone becomes visibly skinny.”

In Ryanggang Province, many residents rely on collecting drinking water from the Yalu River, which marks the border with China. Due to the border blockade, however, access to the river is strictly prohibited, causing great inconvenience.

◆ Social unrest spreads amid endless pandemic

Living conditions for local residents are rapidly deteriorating and, with no end to the pandemic in sight, there is a growing sense of pessimism about the future. Indeed, the spreading social unrest seems to be causing concern for the authorities.

The reporting partner from Chongjin City is a member of the Workers’ Party and says that authorities have tasked party members with reporting weekly on morale levels and public sentiment at work and at home.

The reporting partner from Ryanggang Province, meanwhile, gave the following account of a women’s organization meeting which was held in September:

“The officials stressed that there are now few infections in China and that vaccines have been developed. They asked for us to bear with the strict quarantine measures a little longer in order to prevent outbreaks of coronavirus.”

※ ASIAPRESS contacts its reporting partners in North Korea through smuggled Chinese mobile phones.

Editor’s notes on North Korean reporters

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