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North Korea: Balloons flown from South Korea brought Covid-19

  • 1 Jul 2022

North Korea's epidemic prevention centre said a soldier and a 5-year kindergartener had contact with "alien things” in the town in early April and later tested positive for the Omicron variant.

Ties between the Koreas remain strained amid a long-running stalemate in US-led diplomacy on persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions. ( Reuters )

North Korea has suggested that its Covid-19 outbreak began in people who had contact with balloons flown from South Korea – a highly questionable claim that appeared to be an attempt to hold its rival responsible amid increasing tensions. 

The state media report on Friday said North Korea's epidemic prevention centre had found infection clusters in the town of Ipho near the southeastern border and that some Ipho residents with feverish symptoms travelled to Pyongyang. 

The centre said an 18-year-old soldier and a 5-year kindergartener had contact with "alien things” in the town in early April and later tested positive for the Omicron variant.

In what it called “an emergency instruction,” the epidemic prevention centre ordered officials to “to vigilantly deal with alien things coming by wind and other climate phenomena and balloons” along the border and trace their sources to the last. 

'Alien things'

It also stressed that anyone finding “alien things” must notify authorities immediately so they could be removed.

The reports did not specify what the “alien things” were. But laying the blame on things flown across the border likely is a way to repeat its objections to the ballooning activities of North Korean defectors and activists in South Korea.

Activists for years have flown balloons across the border to distribute hundreds of thousands of propaganda leaflets critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and North Korea has often expressed fury at the activists and at South Korea’s leadership for not stopping them.

Global health authorities say the coronavirus is spread by people in close contact who inhale airborne droplets and it’s more likely to occur in enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces than outdoors. 

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said there was no chance South Korean balloons might have spread the virus to North Korea.

Ties between the Koreas remain strained amid a long-running stalemate in US-led diplomacy on persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for economic and political benefits. 

READ MORE: Another infectious disease hits North Korea amid Covid-19 outbreak

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