North Korea develops its own PCR equipment for Covid-19 tests, says state media

A laboratory technician is seen handling samples while running a polymerase chain reaction test. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (REUTERS) - North Korea has developed its own Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) equipment to conduct coronavirus tests, state media said on Monday (Aug 23), as the country steps up efforts to head off more contagious new strains of the virus.

The isolated country has not confirmed any Covid-19 cases, but has sealed borders, restricted travel and imposed strict prevention measures, seeing the pandemic as a matter of national survival.

As part of the anti-virus efforts, scientists and technicians at the State Academy of Sciences have developed the PCR system that meets global standards for the first time, said the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling Workers' Party.

The equipment was introduced as one of the recent achievements made under leader Kim Jong Un's push to localise machinery, tools and materials amid international sanctions and border closures that sharply reduced trade.

North Korea has run PCR tests as an internationally recognised standard Covid-19 diagnostic method, but received outside assistance including from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The official KCNA news agency also said on Monday that North Korea is stepping up its battle against the virus to ward off the highly transmissible Delta and Lambda variants spreading around the world.

"Plans are underway to normalise disinfection and prevent disorderly movement of people and supplies at offices and workplaces, while education and control is being intensified to ensure all people obey rules including wearing masks at public spaces," KCNA said.

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