Kaesong lies along the demilitarised border with South Korea

North Korea says it has locked down the city of Kaesong near the border with South Korea over fears that a defector who returned to the North last week was infected with the coronavirus.

The reclusive country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has declared an emergency and convened an emergency meeting of his politburo. “The vicious virus could be said to have entered the country,” he was quoted as saying by the KCNA state news agency.

If confirmed, it would be the first official Covid-19 infection in North Korea. The secretive state has previously claimed to be free of the virus, although analysts cast doubt on the claim – saying the coronavirus was likely to have already entered from neighbouring China.

State media said the defector had left for the South three years ago but returned across the border to Kaesong last week. South Korea says there is a strong possibility that a crossing was made and that it is investigating.