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North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2019. Photo: Manan Vatsayana/AFP via Getty Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered Kaesong City, near the border with South Korea, to be placed on lockdown and declared a "maximum emergency" because of a suspected coronavirus case, state media reported on Sunday.

Why it matters: If the person is found to have COVID-19, it would mark the first time Pyongyang has publicly confirmed having a case in the country. The isolated state has previously insisted it's free of the pandemic, although experts have cast doubt on the claim.

  • There's concern that an outbreak in North Korea would devastate the country's poor medical infrastructure and trigger a humanitarian disaster.

What's happening: The official Korean Central News Agency reported the suspected case involved a person who returned to North Korea by crossing the Military Demarcation Line last Sunday after defecting to South Korea three years ago.

  • The person's coronavirus result test result was "uncertain," but they were "put under strict quarantine as a primary step and all the persons in Kaesong City who contacted that person and those who have been to the city in the last five days are being thoroughly investigated, given medical examination and put under quarantine," KCNA said.
  • Kim has also declared a state of emergency in Kaesong City and said he "took the preemptive measure of totally blocking Kaesong City and isolating each district and region from the other within July 24 afternoon just after receiving the report on it."

Of note: North Korea began to take precautions against COVID-19 in January, closing its borders, pausing business with China and quarantining all of its diplomats for a month in Pyongyang, per the New York Times.

Go deeper

CDC says people with coronavirus can vote in person

Photo: Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a post Monday that people with coronavirus "have the right to vote, regardless of whether they are sick or in quarantine."

The state of play: Voters who are sick should "take steps to protect poll workers and other voters," like washing their hands before and after voting, wearing a mask, and keeping at a distance from others, the CDC wrote.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: U.S. to mandate vaccines for anyone who crosses borders starting in January — Shots lagged data by months — The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort.
  2. Health: The Thanksgiving bouncers — Axios-Ipsos poll: Thanksgiving roulette — Experts criticize CDC's language on vaccine boosters — America's Thanksgiving gamble.
  3. Politics: Biden administration asks appeals court to reinstate vaccine mandate — Michigan recommends face masks for all residents amid surge.
  4. Education: A COVID strategy backfires at schools — Schools across the U.S. offer vaccine drivesBenefits of in-person school outweigh risks, study finds.
  5. World: EU drug regulator recommends Pfizer COVID vaccine for kids — Italy announces new COVID restrictions for unvaccinated people — European health agency urges expanding booster shot access.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Birx contradicts Trump in election eve memo urging coronavirus action

White House Coronavirus Task Force response coordinator Deborah Birx with President Trump at the White House in August. Photo: Andrew Harnik/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx said in a memo Monday first obtained by the Washington Post that the U.S. is "entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic."

Why it matters: In the memo on the eve of the election, Birx contradicts President Trump's repeated claims that the U.S. is "rounding the corner" in the virus fight, as she calls for "much more aggressive action" on the COVID-19 response.