Seoul, Jul 27 (efe-epa).- The South Korean government said Monday that it does not believe that the North Korean deserter who recently returned to his country is infected with COVID-19 as Pyongyang claimed at the weekend.
The regime announced Sunday that it had detected in the border city of Kaesong the first possible case of coronavirus on its territory in a man who had defected to South Korea three years ago and had recently returned to the North.
According to state media, leader Kim Jong-un activated the “maximum emergency system,” while the authorities have blocked off Kaesong and kept the man and his contacts in isolation.
Seoul believes that the person Pyongyang is referring to is a 24-year-old man with the surname Kim and that there is no reason to believe he is infected.
“The person is neither registered as a COVID-19 patient nor classified as a person who came in contact with virus patients,” Yoon Tae-ho, a senior health official, said at a news conference.
South Korea has a comprehensive contact tracking system that uses GPS data from mobile phones as a key element to tracing.
Yoon also said that the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested two people who had close contact with the defector, and that both tested negative.
The South Korean army believes that the defector swam across to the North through the mouth of the Han and Imjin rivers, on the eastern flank of the militarized border between the two countries, after the discovery of a bag on Ganghwa Island (about 20 kilometers west of Seoul). He appears to have passed through a drain and under barbed wire fences to avoid detection.
According to North Korean media, the man has been subjected to medical tests and his symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, but apparently he has not undergone a PCR test, stocks of which are limited in the country. According to the World Health Organization, North Korea has only tested 1,117 people since the start of the pandemic.
Although the regime assures that it is the first possible case of COVID-19 on its territory, experts believe that the disease was already present in the country due to the porous border with China. EFE-EPA