The are no indications the new coronavirus has spread to North Korea, the World Health Organization said, after South Korean media suggested there were cases and deaths there being covered up by the Pyongyang authorities.
On Tuesday, Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of North Koreas ruling party, quoted a public health official reiterating the country had no confirmed case of the new coronavirus so far.
However, experts have raised concerns that the disease, which has now killed more than 2,000 people in neighbouring China, could be devastating for North Koreas under-resourced health system.
Dr Mike Ryan, head of WHOs emergencies programme, said:
At the moment there are no signals, there are no indications we are dealing with any COVID-19 there.
A WHO spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, said North Korea had reported checking nearly 7,300 travellers entering the country over a six-week period to 9 February.
He also said 141 travellers with fevers had been tested for the virus and all had tested negative.
Aid organisations have called for exemptions from sanctions that restrict most trade and business with North Korea.
In response, Jasarevic said the WHO will provide North Korea with supplies including laboratory reagents for tests and protective equipment such as goggles, gloves, masks and gowns for health workers.
A former North Korean diplomat, Thae Yong-ho, who defected to South Korea in 2016 said the ability of the WHO to evaluate the situation in North Korea was probably limited, as its staff and other foreigners would mostly be confined in the capital Pyongyang.
Already one of the worlds most closed-off countries, North Korea has stopped flights and train services with its neighbours, established month-long mandatory quarantines, suspended international tourism and imposed a near-complete lockdown on cross-border travel.