North Korean officials are reportedly asking for medical aid privately while publicly denying any cases of coronavirus within their country's borders.
The Financial Times reported Thursday that North Korean officials have privately reached out to officials in other countries for unspecified aid, while the official number of reported cases in North Korea remains at zero.
"The government has testing kits for COVID-19 and they know how to use them, but [the number of kits are] not sufficient, hence, [officials are] requesting all organizations ... to support them in this regard," a source told the Times.
Reuters reported last week that North Korean officials had asked aid agencies for supplies such as masks and testing kits, though such supplies were reportedly awaiting entry on North Korea's heavily protected border.
“North Koreans need assistance and have asked for it, but things are now on hold,” one aid group official familiar with the efforts told Reuters.
One former World Health Organization (WHO) official who was based in Pyongyang told Business Insider that he was "concerned" about a wide-scale outbreak in North Korea, citing the country's insufficient medical system. The country also remains under heavy sanctions due to its ballistic missile program.
"There's not enough medicine for the country. I'm really concerned about them facing an outbreak," former WHO project chief Nagi Shafik told Business Insider.
North Korea borders China, the site of the highest number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus, which originated in China's Hubei province.
The secretive nation has largely abandoned talks with the U.S. after a series of negotiations with President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE over possible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.