N. Korea suggests balloons flown from South brought COVID-19

  • FILE - North Koran defectors release balloons carrying leaflets condemning North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his government's policies, in Paju, near the border with North Korea, South Korea on Oct. 10, 2014. North Korea suggested Friday, July 1, 2022 its COVID-19 outbreak began in people who had contact with balloons flown from South Korea, a highly questionable claim that appeared to be an attempt to hold its rival responsible amid increasing tensions. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

  • FILE - People watch a TV screen showing a news program reporting with an image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at a train station in Seoul, South Korea on May 16, 2022. North Korea suggested Friday, July 1, 2022 its COVID-19 outbreak began in people who had contact with balloons flown from South Korea, a highly questionable claim that appeared to be an attempt to hold its rival responsible amid increasing tensions. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

(AP) — North Korea is suggesting its COVID-19 outbreak began in people who had contact with balloons flown from South Korea. The highly questionable claim appeared to be an attempt to hold its rival responsible amid increasing tensions. Activists for years have flown balloons across the border to distribute propaganda leaflets, and North Korea has expressed fury at the activists and at South Korea’s leadership for not stopping them. A state media report Friday said officials were ordered to deal vigilantly with “alien things” and balloons blown across the border. Global health authorities say the coronavirus is spread by people in close contact who inhale airborne droplets and it’s more likely to occur in enclosed spaces than outdoors.