North Koreans will reportedly be subjected to three months of hard labour for not wearing Covid-19 face masks under tough new rules.
The new measures are part of a push to stop the spread of coronavirus in the secretive country.
Students will be recruited to carry out ‘face mask patrols’ to ensure people are wearing the facial coverings, officials in the country told Radio Free Asia.
Those who are found without a face mask will have to undergo three months of ‘disciplinary labour’.
Speaking to the news outlet, a North Korean official said: ‘Beginning on the 16th, an inspection team is being organized here in Pyongyang and also in provincial cities with police officers, and college and high school students to conduct intensive crackdowns on people who don’t wear masks.
‘Whoever doesn’t wear a mask will be punished with more than three months of disciplinary labor, regardless of who they are.’
North Korea has not officially recorded any cases of the coronavirus but has taken intensive prevention measures, including a ban on gatherings, an order to wear masks and mandatory quarantines for border workers.
However officials revealed to citizens in public lectures that there were confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country as early as the end of March, according to a report by Radio Free Asia in April.
It detailed how lecturers, speaking to organisations and neighbourhood watch groups, said there were cases within the country, without giving any numbers – citing two sources; one in Pyongyang and one in Ryanggang province.
Foreign experts have cast doubt over North Korea’s claim of having no coronavirus cases.