People stand at Taedongmun gate in Pyongyang to watch a firework display on July 27 to mark the 67th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice agreement.
People stand at Taedongmun gate in Pyongyang to watch a firework display on July 27 to mark the 67th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice agreement. Kim Won Jin/AFP/Getty Images

North Korea has tested 1,211 people for coronavirus as of July 16, with all results returned negative, the World Health Organization’s representative to North Korea Dr. Edwin Salvador told CNN.

All educational institutions in the country — including pre-schools — are now on extended summer break for the next two months, Salvador said.

Currently, 696 North Koreans are under quarantine. They are all laborers and loaders working at the Nampo port on the country’s western coast and the Sinuiju-Dandong border between North Korea and China, Salvador said.  

“The increase in the number of people quarantined is due to the increased volume of goods coming into the country through Nampo and Sinuiju-Dangdong routes. Medicines and medical products such as vaccines and Covid-19 related items are given high priority to be transported across the border,” Salvador said. 

According to WHO, 15 laboratories are designated for coronavirus testing in North Korea, including provincial laboratories. The Central Hygiene Anti-Epidemic Institute remains the reference laboratory.

Primers and probes for PCR machines to facilitate 1,000 tests, sent from WHO’s Southeast Asia regional office, have arrived in North Korea, Salvador said, adding that WHO had earlier provided 900 pieces of personal protective equipment along with laboratory reagents.

North Korea is also checking people’s temperature using infrared thermometers, providing hand-washing facilities and sanitizer in all public places including shopping malls, restaurants, and hotels. Public announcements on Covid-19 information are made over TV, radio, print media as well as loudspeakers, Salvador said.

Suspected case: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un convened an emergency meeting Saturday after it was reported that a defector who fled the country three years ago had returned to the North Korean city of Kaesong, while possibly infected with coronavirus, according to state-run newswire KCNA.

Few experts believe that North Korea, a country of nearly 25 million people which shares a border with China, could have escaped the effects of a pandemic that has infected more than 16 million people worldwide and killed nearly 650,000.