Coronavirus patients in North Korea are starving to death and suffering in deplorable conditions in quarantine jails, it is claimed.
Most of those banished to the hermit state's nine quarantine facilities are ignored and held prisoner - they are not diagnosed, they do not receive treatment for Covid-19 and they are forced to sleep on the floor.
Some who arrived with only mild symptoms, such as a fever, ended up falling ill and dying of malnutrition, a new report alleges amid a sharp rise in the number of North Koreans being placed in quarantine.
If a patient dies, their body is cremated at the site and their remains are then sent to their family without any explanation.
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Kim Jong-un's brutal regime, which has outrageously claimed his country is virus-free, has reportedly banned people from saying the words "coronavirus" and "infectious disease".
Prisoners at the quarantine facilities have been complaining about hunger and extreme cold because there is no heating, a source told Daily NK, a Seoul-based news website run by defectors.
There is a lack of personal hygiene because there is no hot water and prisoners are unable to wash themselves often.
Inmates are given three meals a day, but it is just salt soup and corn rice. Patients have been starving to death and getting sicker due to the lack of care, the source added.
The source said: "If you die, your cremated remains are put in a package and given to your family.
"There is no way to confirm whether these are the remains of the actual family member or someone else."
The report said there has been a rapid increase in the number of people being placed in quarantine at the country's nine facilities.
It said cases are being detected in Pyongyang, but North Korea refuses to set up quarantine sites in the capital.
Instead, patients in Pyongyang are sent to a facility on an island.
The source told Daily NK that prisoners are not diagnosed and only those with severe symptoms are treated.
The source said: "There is no basic medicine." Doctors cannot mention the words "coronavirus" or "infectious disease" because they are recognised as taboo.
Due to a lack of beds, a majority of patients are forced to sleep on the floor.
But those who wield some form of authority or economic power have been bribing managers with cash so they can receive better treatment and food sent by their families, the report said.
Visitors are banned to stop the spread of the virus.
Patients are not allowed to send letters home.
If a doctor prescribes a drug, it must be obtained by the patient's families and sent to the quarantine facility, if they have the money to do so.
It is thought that thousands of people may have died as a result of Covid-19 in North Korea.
In Manpo, a town on the border with China, more than 100 people have died of coronavirus-like symptoms, Daily NK reported.
When the pandemic began, there were unverified claims that Covid-19 patients had been executed.
Earlier this week, Kim ordered a tightening of state emergency anti-coronavirus systems as he appeared in public for the first time in almost a month.
The Politburo meeting came amid economic and political uncertainty surrounding the global Covid-19 pandemic that is putting additional pressure on the North's economy, already battered by international sanctions aimed at stopping its nuclear programme.
The meeting discussed an unspecified "serious crime" committed by party officials at the Pyongyang University of Medicine.
Other officials at the Central Committee and other government agencies "shielded, connived and fostered the crime" by failing to tighten oversight over the university, the state KCNA news agency reported.
It did not specify if the crime was related to the coronavirus.
North Korea had tested over 12,000 people and reported no confirmed cases of the coronavirus, as of early November, according to the World Health Organisation.
A total of 6,173 people, eight of whom were foreigners, were detected as suspected cases and 174 people were quarantined in the last week of October, the WHO said.