About 180 North Korean soldiers have died from the coronavirus, despite its claim to be one of only two countries without a recorded case of the deadly virus.
North Korean military leaders were reportedly briefed on a coronavirus update on March 6. The report stated that 180 had died and 3,700 infected had been quarantined, according to a source inside the North Korean military who told South Korean media, Daily NK. The source added that most of the coronavirus cases have come from soldiers stationed along the country’s border with China, where the virus originated, and more specifically, around the North Pyongan, Chagang, Ryanggang, and North Hamgyong provinces.
The report came after North Korean officials ordered military hospitals to collect data on soldiers who have died from coronavirus-like symptoms. North Korean hospitals are so overwhelmed with dead bodies that they no longer have the means to cremate the corpses in an effort to sanitize the stations.
“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,” the military source explained to the Daily NK.
“I haven’t heard of corpses being cremated in military hospitals,” he added. “The military leadership likely believes that suddenly asking the hospitals to cremate all the bodies would create a big headache for medical staff.”
Authorities have also ordered quarantined areas to be disinfected on a daily basis. To do this, military hospitals are reportedly spraying methanol to disinfect the areas.
Soldiers who appear weak or sick have been ordered to be observed closely by North Korean authorities to help prevent the spread of the virus.
North Korean authorities have threatened to punish military officials for not following protocols regarding the coronavirus, also called COVID-19.
Officers will “be held responsible for the deaths that have occurred in their units,” the military source said. He added that performance “evaluations of battle readiness will include a review of how many soldiers have died.”
North Korean military officials are also reportedly increasing the supply of food in an effort to ensure soldiers are getting enough to eat to fight the disease.
“Officials in charge of the military’s logistics operations are stressing that soldiers are supplied at least 800 grams worth of food per day. They also are emphasizing that soldiers eat three meals of pureed soybean soup per day, instead of the usual one per day,” the military source said.
The coronavirus has infected at least 114 countries and has killed more than 4,000 people. The World Health Organization announced on Wednesday that the deadly virus is now officially a pandemic.
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— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) March 11, 2020