Pentagon 'fairly certain' North Korea has coronavirus cases

Pentagon 'fairly certain' North Korea has coronavirus cases
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The top U.S. general in South Korea said Friday he is “fairly certain” North Korea has coronavirus infections, despite public claims from the isolated nation that it has been spared from the outbreak that originated in neighboring China.

Gen. Robert Abrams said that while North Korea says it does not have any COVID-19 cases, Pyongyang’s military appears to have “fundamentally been on lockdown for about 30 days.”

“It is a closed-off nation, so we can’t say emphatically that they have cases. But we’re fairly certain they do,” Abrams told Pentagon reporters from South Korea via video conference.

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Abrams added that North Korean forces did not fly any airplanes for 24 days, but recently “they started routine training again.”

North Korea's military recently launched three short-range projectiles off its eastern coast, South Korea's military reported Monday.

A day later, North Korean state media said leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnJuan Williams: Trump's silence on Russian bounties betrays America Overnight Defense: Army launches command probe after slaying at Fort Hood | 'MAGA' listed as 'covert white supremacy' in military handout Kim Jong Un's sister says another summit with Trump unlikely, requests July Fourth DVDs MORE oversaw a live-fire artillery exercise, the second in a week.

The military moves come as the Pentagon works quickly to ensure its troops and personnel are protected from the spread of the coronavirus, which was declared a pandemic this week by the World Health Organization.

The United States has at least 1,700 confirmed cases and 31 deaths. More than 5,000 people have died from the coronavirus worldwide, the majority of them in China.

Abrams said there are nine confirmed cases with U.S. Forces in South Korea, including one active duty service member and two family members. He emphasized that all nine individuals live off base, and that with roughly 28,000 U.S. service members on the Korean peninsula, efforts to keep the virus from spreading have been working well.

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“Out of a population of 58,000 people that touches U.S. Forces Korea daily, that’s a pretty low number,” Abrams said of the nine cases.

To curtail the coronavirus spread, Abrams said troops and civilian employees are ordered to limit their movement off base and self-monitor and stay home if feeling unwell. In addition, the command works to identify anyone who could have been exposed to someone who tests positive for the virus and to quarantine those individuals.

“We’re still flying, we’re still training, we’re still shooting gunnery, we’re still qualifying our weapons, we’re still conducting maneuver training,” Abrams said. “There’s ways to work around [coronavirus] but you have to go to some extraordinary measures to ensure it’s safe for everyone.”