How Do North Korea's COVID Quarantines Work?
A glimpse at how North Korea is managing home and centralized quarantines – and the penalties for escaping. North Korea can do little to treat those infected with COVID-19 given the country’s poor public health system and the lack of diagnostic equipment, vaccines, and medical treatments. A source in Pyongyang told Daily NK on Monday that sick people are classified as “completely recovered” after spending seven days in home quarantine or seven to 10 days in a facility. “They are released from quarantine even if they still have a fever or a cough,” he said. In short, people are deemed “fully recovered” after a specified period of quarantine for fever or other symptoms. Get briefed on the story of the week, and developing stories to watch across the Asia-Pacific. North Korea recently made its first public admission of a COVID-19 outbreak, noting that patient zero had the Omicron variant. However, North Koreans appear especially at risk to COVID-19 because of low rates of vaccination and weaker immunity due to malnutrition caused by the country’s food shortages. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) expressed concern about the situation in North Korea on May 17, noting the high risk of new strains emerging in places where the virus is left to run rampant.
Daily NK’s source in Pyongyang said that North Korean authorities may construct three new quarantine facilities based on observations of trends in the city’s outbreak. “[North Korean authorities] plan to build three more temporary quarantine facilities if the number of patients requiring transport [to isolation facilities] increases in Pyongyang,” said the source. The authorities are supplying people in existing quarantine facilities with rice mixed with corn or potatoes, he said. “In the case of the temporary facility in Rangrang District, people get half a bowl of rice mixed with corn and salted broth for breakfast, and noodles and corn with salted broth for lunch,” he added. However, the facilities where Pyongyang residents are kept likely have better provisions of food than facilities in other regions of the country. Meanwhile, sick people quarantining at home are receiving no supplies from the government at all. The source said home quarantine patients are managed by the heads of inminban (people’s units), neighborhood police, local Ministry of State Security officials, health officials and doctors from local clinics. The source said “taking responsibility” means simply checking that they are eating, not actually providing them with food. The source also reported that many people borrow food or buy food from markets prior to going into home quarantine.
Prices of daily sundries have been unstable due to supply problems in the midst of North Korea’s protracted closure of its borders. Meanwhile, North Korean authorities are arresting and confining people who escape from quarantine facilities or leave their homes during their home quarantine periods. “People who have been arrested or detained are returned to their homes by mobile police teams under the direct command of the State Emergency Anti-epidemic Headquarters,” he said. Since leaving home quarantine without permission is considered a serious violation of party policy, inminban keep watch over people in home quarantine day and night, regularly reporting up the chain of command. He further reported that mobile police teams nail doors shut after returning escapees home as part of efforts to ensure they cannot escape again. People in the city are complaining that these measures are creating a climate of fear. This article first appeared on Daily NK, which contacts multiple sources inside and outside North Korea to verify information.
Read full article at The Diplomat