The North Korean government has revealed it has recorded its first case of coronavirus in a city near the border with South Korea. Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un has announced the country will be placed on maximum emergency system protocols and told officials to brace for the impacts of the virus.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the state-run media reported that the COVID-19 patient was a defector who fled to South Korea three years ago and came back to North Korea illegally on July 19.
The individual is believed to have contracted the deadly virus after several medical examinations that were conducted on him returned uncertain results.
North Korean Leader Kim was notified of the news on Friday afternoon and immediately ordered to place the city of Kaesong on lockdown and required its citizens and those who have been near the patient to be investigated, examined and quarantined.
At a Workers' Party meeting held on Saturday, Kim reportedly told the attendees to face up to the reality of the situation of the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
On Sunday, South Korea's military force said it was investigating the potentially illegal border crossing. Yonhap News Agency identified the patient as a 24-year-old individual with last name Kim who swam across the Han River's estuary to escape to the south three years prior.
Reportedly, the COVID-19 positive Kim studied and finished middle school in the city of Kaesong before defecting to South Korea and settling in the city of Gimpo.
Six months ago, North Korea closed its borders and placed thousands of its residents into isolation as the coronavirus pandemic was rampaging across the entire world, as reported by BBC.
The apparent win against COVID-19
Earlier this month, Supreme Leader Kim expressed his gratitude to the country's successful response to the deadly pandemic.
Despite the country's apparent victory over the coronavirus pandemic, rumors have been circulating that North Korea has had positive COVID-19 cases for months but did not reveal the news to the world.
The secrecy and difficulty in verifying the claims made the announcement by the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) surprising to international entities.
The incident, however, raises many doubts about the authenticity of the news as defectors usually avoid the border closer to South Korea as it is heavily fortified. It is even rarer for them to re-defect via the same route years later.
According to CNN, international critics have since worried over the impoverished health system within North Korea, stating the country will most likely face severe difficulties in handling the situation. Despite the challenges, the country's government will most likely benefit from poor road and rail constructions and travel restrictions.
The restrictions on the travel of information have been the power that Pyongyang has held over several years in what is considered to be the country with the lease-free media environment. It becomes even more likely that the truth of the coronavirus case will never be revealed to the world.