Kovit-19: North Korea says the virus came from balloons launched in South Korea

Activists have been sending balloons across the border for years to distribute hundreds of thousands of campaign leaflets critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

North Korea has criticized South Korea’s leadership for failing to stop activists.

According to World Health Organization officials, the corona virus is spread by close contact with inhaled airborne droplets, and can occur in closed, poorly ventilated areas rather than outside.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Southern Coordination said there was a consensus between South Korean health officials and World Health Organization experts: Infection by contact with the corona virus on the surface of products was almost impossible.

He reiterated that there was no way South Korean balloons could carry and spread SARS-CoV-2 in North Korea.

Relations between the two countries are tight amid a long-standing impasse in US-led diplomacy to abandon North Korea’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for economic and political interests.

North Korea’s epidemic center has detected an outbreak of the disease in Ipoh, near the southeastern border with South Korea, and some residents have fled to Pyongyang with symptoms of the flu, North Korean state media said.

The center said in early April that an 18-year-old soldier and a 5-year-old child were in contact with “foreign substances” and then tested positive for the Ómicron type.

In what became known as the “Emergency Instruction”, the Center for the Prevention of Disasters ordered authorities to “carefully handle foreign objects carrying air and other weather events and balloons” on the Korean border and to locate their sources.

He stressed that those who find “foreign objects” should immediately notify the authorities so that they can be removed.

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Balloon campaigns were largely halted after the previous South Korean government passed legislation criminalizing them, with no such public action in early April.

An activist who is under investigation for past activities flew balloons with propaganda leaflets across the border in late April. It was also shipped twice more in June, but replaced the regular leaflets for Govit-19 related products such as masks and painkillers.

In previous reports of Kovit-19, North Korea said the virus could be spread by snow or by migratory birds. Epidemiological controls include strict barriers to seawater entry.

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