North Korean leader calls for stronger efforts to guard against the new coronavirus outbreak that has spread globally.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for stronger efforts to guard against coronavirus, saying there will be “serious consequences” if the outbreak spreads to the country.

North Korea has not reported a single case of COVID-19, which has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 84,000 people in dozens of countries since it emerged in neighbouring China.

During a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, Kim called for the country’s anti-epidemic headquarters to strengthen screening and to seal off all “channels and space through which the infectious disease may find its way,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Saturday.

“In case the infectious disease spreading beyond control finds its way into our country, it will entail serious consequences,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

Pyongyang has been pushing a tough anti-virus campaign it has described as a matter of “national existence”.

The country has shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned tourists, intensified screening at entry points and mobilised tens of thousands of health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms. It has also placed hundreds of foreigners in quarantine to prevent an outbreak. 

Experts say an epidemic in North Korea could be dire because of the country’s chronic lack of medical supplies and poor healthcare infrastructure.

Military drills

In a separate report, KCNA said Kim, in a rare public outing, supervised a military drill simulating an attack on an island target. 

The North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper published photos of Kim watching from an observation post and artillery vehicles firing from a coastal area.

The military drill was to “judge the mobility and the firepower strike ability” on the front line and eastern units and ended to the “great satisfaction” of Kim, KCNA said on Saturday. 

The report did not specify when and where the drill took place.

“Soldiers, who have firmly armed themselves with a-match-for-a-hundred idea of the Party and trained under the simulated conditions of actual battles, reduced a target islet to a sea of flames,” KCNA said.