North Korea has suffered its first Covid super-spreader event after New Year's celebrations left 32 people with the virus.
A big event of singers and dancers held at the secretive state's capital city, Pyongyang, was watched on by masked spectators crammed into Kim Il-sung Square.
Kim Jong-un's North Korea has denied coronavirus has spread into the country, claiming its aggressive border shutdown and public health measures have prevented a single infection.
At least 32 new cases including two deaths have been traced back to the mass gathering where social distancing measures were reportedly scrapped.
A Pyongyang source, speaking to South Korea's Daily NK newspaper, said: "People showing signs of fever appeared after the celebratory performance for the new year."
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Security had been strict for the event, they added, but it wasn't enough to stop the disease spreading.
They said: "Doctors from the Central Anti-epidemic Committee and five quarantine stations granted admission only after checking if each and every one of them was wearing a mask.
"They also took their temperature at the entrance an hour before the performance began.
"Those departing from districts, work units and other organisations had already held their own onsite checks for masks and fever."
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The source continued: "The people who died were cremated and their ashes were returned after a disinfection process.
"Besides that, people who displayed fever symptoms after the performance have been in home quarantine with their families."
For Markus Bell, a North Korea analyst and research fellow at Australia's La Trobe University, it's no surprise that the Kim regime hasn't admitted to any Covid cases.
He said: "The Covid-19 virus poses a massive threat to North Korea's already vulnerable population, who are served by a terribly under-resourced and archaic health system.
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"It's no big surprise that Pyongyang is reluctant to acknowledge the realities of the global pandemic as it makes itself known within the country.
"To acknowledge the presence of Covid-19 and deaths resulting from the disease is to acknowledge the fallibility if the regime.
"To acknowledge these things is, to some extent, to admit that North Korea is – just like every other country – struggling, and so often failing, to protect its populous from this health crisis.
"It's better for Kim Jong-un to deny or not even consider the existence of Covid-19 within the state for as long as possible."
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