North Korea has reopened the schools but has kept a ban on the gatherings of the public and made it compulsory for the people for wearing masks as a part of the response to the coronavirus or COVID-19 threat, a WHO official mentioned on Wednesday.
While the country not confirmed any infections, the Ministry of Public Health has been sharing weekly updates with the WHO on steps it is using to contain the pandemic, Edwin Salvador said, the agency's representative to the reclusive nation.
In the latest update provided on June 19, the ministry said all educational institutions are now open, with children required to wear masks and washing stations installed. The ministry also reported that all of 922 people checked so far have tested negative, while hundreds of others, mostly cargo handlers at seaports and land borders, are regularly quarantined for monitoring, Salvador said.
Schools Reopen in North Korea
"Temperature checks using infra-red thermometers, hand washing facilities and sanitisers continue to be in place in all public places including shopping malls, restaurants and hotels," he said via email. "It is mandatory for all people to wear masks in public places and no public gatherings are allowed."
Pyongyang devised a "national preparedness and response plan" in February based on the WHO's recommendations, under which it appointed community doctors, each of whom is responsible for 130 households, Salvador said. It also set up 235 "Rapid Response Teams" consisting of an epidemiologist, doctor, nurse, paramedical and a livestock official, tasked with investigating any suspected cases.
The WHO has provided enough supplies to conduct 1,000 tests, as well as 2,900 personal protective pieces of equipment alongside laboratory reagents, Salvador said, adding that healthcare workers were being trained how to deal with the COVID-19 threat. South Korea's Unification Ministry, handling inter-Korean affairs, said plans to sent $10 million of aid for the North via the U.N. World Food Programme were put on hold after cross-border tensions flared.
(With agency inputs)