North Korea wakes up to coronavirus cases; 'disinfecting corpses' as soldier deaths rise

Amid reports that 200 North Korean soldiers have died from the novel coronavirus, Pyongyang has initiated many quarantine efforts and asked military commanders to be accountable for implementing them in army hospitals. Though these reports are not based on official figures, media outlets with allegiance to the government have reported it citing army sources.

Novel coronavirus hits North Korean soldiers

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a grand military parade celebrating the 70th founding anniversary

According to a report published in South Korea's Daily NK, 180 North Korean soldiers died in January and February and about 3,700 are currently under quarantine. Soldiers who have died are predominantly from regions near Sino-Korea bordering North Pyongan, Chagang, Ryanggang, and North Hamgyong provinces.

What is the report based on?

The country's military leadership had reportedly asked hospitals serving military to collect data on the number of soldiers who had died after suffering from high fevers stemming from pneumonia, tuberculosis, asthma or colds. It had also asked for the number of those currently in quarantine.

The report is said to have caused an uproar in the military establishment, which is gearing up to prevent the spread of what appears to be Covid-19. It has ordered for soldiers with week immune system or with underlying health issues to be observed closely

Why are corpses being disinfected?

According to the report, hospitals that are treating soldiers have been ordered to disinfect corpses. Earlier, the North Korean government had ordered for the bodies to be cremated. "There's just too many bodies [to be cremated in the military] and they didn't want news [of the cremations] to leak outside the military", a military source told Daily NK.

"I haven't heard of corpses being cremated in military hospitals", the source said. "The military leadership likely believes that suddenly asking the hospitals to cremate all the bodies would create a big headache for medical staff", he added.

Official reports rule out coronavirus cases

The country hasn't officially reported any case of Covid-19 infection. This is despite the fact that the country borders both China and South Korea, both of whom have reported the highest number of coronavirus cases.

As on Tuesday (March 10), China has reported 80,757 cases along with 3,136 fatalities. Similarly, South Korea has reported 7,513 cases and 54 deaths.

Related topics : Coronavirus