World

N. Korea declares emergency in border town over first virus case

Man who defected to the South returned with Covid-19 symptoms, says Pyongyang's news agency

SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared an emergency and a lockdown in a border town after a person suspected of being infected with the coronavirus returned from South Korea after illegally crossing the border, state media said yesterday.

If confirmed, it would be the first case officially acknowledged by North Korean authorities.

Mr Kim convened an emergency politburo meeting in response to what he called a "critical situation in which the vicious virus could be said to have entered the country", KCNA state news reported.

A person who defected to South Korea three years ago returned across the fortified border that divides the two Koreas to the town of Kaesong this month with symptoms of Covid-19, KCNA reported.

KCNA did not say if the person had been tested, but said an "uncertain result was made from several medical check-ups of the secretion of that person's upper respiratory organ and blood", prompting officials to quarantine the person and investigate anyone he may have been in contact with.

One analyst said the announcement was important, not only because North Korea was for the first time reporting a suspected case but because it suggested it was appealing for help.

"It's an ice-breaking moment for North Korea to admit a case," said Professor Choo Jae Woo of Kyung Hee University.

"It could be reaching out to the world for help. Perhaps for humanitarian assistance."

Pointing the blame at an "imported case" from South Korea, the North can use this as a way to openly accept aid from the South, Prof Cho said.

AUSTRALIA

Meanwhile, Australia's Victoria state recorded 459 cases yesterday, the second-highest daily total and up from 357 cases the previous day, the state's leader said .

Premier Daniel Andrews also said Victoria had reported 10 deaths in the past 24 hours, Australia's highest daily number.

Australia has recorded more than 14,400 cases so far.

The country's most populous state of New South Wales recorded 14 new cases overnight, with almost half connected to a known outbreak at a restaurant on the outskirts of Sydney.

In Hong Kong, the government announced a slew of measures to tighten quarantine exemptions yesterday as the city recorded 128 new cases in 24 hours, bringing the total to 2,634 with 18 deaths.

Indonesia reported 1,492 new infections yesterday, bringing its total to 98,778, data from the country's Health Ministry website showed.

The number of deaths rose by 67, bringing the total to 4,781.

The Philippines yesterday reported 39 deaths related to the coronavirus and 2,110 additional infections. Its death tally now stands at 1,932, with 80,448 cases, the Department of Health said.

Vietnam reported two more locally transmitted cases yesterday, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 420.There have been no deaths from Covid-19 in the country. - REUTERS, AFP

WORLD