China offers to help North Korea respond to coronavirus pandemic

A young "ballerina" wears a protective face mask while walking with her mom in Beijing on Monday. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI


China's President XI jinping offered Saturday to help North Korean leader Kim Jong Un respond to the coronavirus pandemic.


The offer was made in a letter Xi sent to Kim. China's state-run Xinhua News Agency published details of the letter.

Xi said he was concerned about "prevention and control of the North Korean epidemic and health of the Korean people."

The news agency added that Xi offered China's help to support North Korea's response to the pandemic.

"China is willing to strengthen anti-epidemic cooperation with the DPRK and provide support withing its ability according to the needs of the DPEK," Xi wrote, using the acronym for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "It is believed that with the joint efforts of both China and the DPRK and the international community, the final victory in this fight against the epidemic will be achieved."

The World Health Organization has not received any reports from North Korea of coronavirus cases.

Still, North Korea is ramping up its "anti-epidemic activities" in response to the "widespread malignant virus infection," according to state-run Korean Central News Agency.

Chinese authorities first identified a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China, in December. Scientists blamed the outbreak on a novel coronavirus in January.

Evidence suggests the initial outbreak was associated with a seafood market in Wuhan, China, according to the World Health Organization.

As of Saturday, the number of cases in China reached 83,976, according to Johns Hopkins University global tracker of cases. The country reported 4,637 deaths.

Worldwide, the United States had the most COVID-19 cases (1,284,708) and the most deaths (77,201). Globally, there were more than 3.9 million cases and more than 275,000 deaths.

Spain has the second highest number of cases at 222,857, with 26,299 deaths. Some lockdown restrictions were lifted Monday as cases dropped to as low as they were before the lockdown began March 14, but the national government Friday rejected a request by the Madrid region to ease restrictions on social mobility.

National health officials opted to wait until the region's testing capabilities are "more robust."

Britain surpassed Italy earlier this week to rank first on the list of COVID-19 deaths in Europe. As of Saturday, Britain had 212,629 cases and 31,316 deaths.

South Korea, which has received international praise for largely bringing the coronavirus under control, has closed nightclubs amid spike in cases tied to nightlife.

The country's capital Seoul had loosened its social distancing guidelines days earlier after continuing a monthlong streak of daily cases below 100. Since the virus outbreak began, the country, which has about one-sixth the population of the United States, has reported 10,840 cases and 256 deaths.

Park Won-soon, mayor of Itaewon, a neighborhood known for its dining and nightlife, said in a briefing that as of noon Saturday COVID-19 cases tied to clubs and bars increased to 40.

In response, Park ordered nightclubs, discos, bars and similar nightlife establishments in Seoul closed.

A 29-year-old man visited clubs and bars last weekend before noticing symptoms of the respiratory illness, officials said. He tested positive Wednesday and was admitted to a hospital in Suwon, south of Seoul.

The spike has sparked recollections of the outbreak at a religious sect in February, which spiked daily infections in the nation to almost 1,000. Authorities estimate the man may have come into contact with more than 1,500 people across the five venues last weekend.

The International Monetary Fund has projected the world economy to contract by 3 percent this year due to the pandemic, which it said is "much worse than during the 2008-09 financial crisis."

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