Coronavirus may have killed almost 200 soldiers in North Korea amid suspicions of a major outbreak in the secretive country, it is claimed.
So many soldiers have died that there are “just too many bodies” to be cremated, and military leaders have ordered all corpses to be disinfected, the Daily NK reported, citing a source inside the regime’s military.
North Korea has insisted it is coronavirus-free, tightened its borders and forced foreign visitors or diplomats to quarantine for a month.
But sources claim the virus has been spreading through the country and Kim Jong-un’s regime executed an official who violated a quarantine after returning from China.
Observers believe Kim Jong-un’s healthcare system is woefully unprepared for the virus and they have expressed fears that an outbreak could be devastating, given the state of hospitals and malnutrition.
North Korea’s neighbours, China and South Korea, have the most and second-most cases, respectively.
It is for that reason alone that observers believe the Kim regime is covering up cases of coronavirus in the North.
A report prepared by the medical corps of North Korea’s military on Friday found that 180 soldiers had died in January and February of symptoms consistent with coronavirus, Daily NK reported.
Most of those who died were stationed on or near to the border with China.
About 3,700 soldiers have been put in quarantine.
The medical corps report was sent to Pyongyang’s military leaders and it has caused an uproar in the establishment and measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, Daily NK added.
All corpses and military hospitals must now be “thoroughly disinfected”.
The military source said: “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.
“I haven’t heard of corpses being cremated in military hospitals.
“The military leadership likely believes that suddenly asking the hospitals to cremate all the bodies would create a big headache for medical staff.”
Officers will be “held responsible” for suspected coronavirus deaths within their units, the source added.
The source also said that soldiers are now being given 800 grams of food every day, and have been told to eat three servings of pureed soybean soup per day instead of the usual one every 24 hours.
Malnutrition is a problem within the military and in 2017 it was reported that it became so bad that troops’ parents were sending them food.
Last week, Kim sent a condolence letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressing hope that Seoul would “overcome” its outbreak.
About 80 foreigners – diplomats, relief workers and businessmen – who were quarantined in North Korea for weeks were finally allowed to leave on Monday.
They flew from Pyongyang to Vladivostok in eastern Russia,
Germany, France and Switzerland closed their missions in North Korea and withdrew their staff.
Colin Crooks, the British ambassador in Pyongyang, tweeted: “Sad to say farewell this morning to colleagues from German Embassy and French Office #NorthKorea which are closing temporarily. #BritishEmbassy remains open.”
It came as North Korea fired multiple short-range projectiles into the sea on Monday.