North Korea releases 3,600 quarantined over virus: Reports

A picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency shows volunteers carrying out temperature screening in Pyongyang, North Korea, on March 4, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - North Korea has released more than 3,600 people quarantined over the new coronavirus, reports said on Sunday (March 8), as the disease spread to 95 countries with over 100,000 cases worldwide.

Pyongyang has imposed strict restrictions and closed its borders to try to prevent an outbreak - and insists it has not had a single case of Covid-19.

Around 3,650 people quarantined in Kangwon and Chagang provinces were released as of Thursday, North Korea's state radio reported, according to Yonhap news agency.

It follows a report from the official KCNA news agency that stated on Friday that 221 out of 380 foreigners who were under "strict medical monitoring" had been discharged from isolation.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned last month of "serious consequences" if the virus reaches his country, which has banned tourists and suspended international trains and flights.

Pyongyang, subject to multiple international sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, has a weak medical infrastructure and analysts say prevention is its only option.

Mr Kim sent a personal letter to President Moon Jae-in on Thursday to "comfort" South Koreans fighting the coronavirus outbreak raging in the country.

South Korea - which reported 93 new cases on Sunday - has the largest number of cases in the world outside China with 7,134.

Two more people died, bringing the death toll to 50, according to the Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of coronavirus cases has risen worldwide to more than 100,000, with 3,500 dead across 95 nations and territories.

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