Kim Jong-un’s ruthless regime is not ready to face down the prospect of the infectious disease – which started in China– taking hold in North Korea.
With a population of more than 25 million people, such an outbreak could be utterly devastating for the fragile regime.
And now North Korea has become the 29th country to record a case of the coronavirus which has killed more than 700 people worldwide.
At least 35,000 people have been infected with the disease worldwide, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Experts have warned North Korea could be shattered by the virus if it became a full blown epidemic in the impoverished and secretive state.
North Korea scholar Professor Robert E. Kelly said an epidemic in North Korea would be a “matter of national survival”.
He compared it to the famine which ravaged the hermit kingdom in the nineties - which ended up killing up to 3.5 million people.
Writing for National Interest, Professor Kelly explained that Kim knows his hermit kingdom does not have the resources to fight back against coronavirus.
Pyongyang was one of the first outside China to take action over the infection, promptly banning foreign tourists as murmurs of the outbreak began to emerge from Wuhan.
State-media articles within North Korea have also said the virus is a “fight” and is a matter for “survival” of the state.
Professor Kelly, from Pusan National University, wrote: “North Korea lacks the doctors, hospitals, reserves of medicine, modern medical devices, and so on to respond adequately and prevent a spiraling spread.
“An epidemic would be, as the regime itself realized, a matter of national survival.
He added: “ Pyongyang has neither the resources nor the administrative culture – transparency, empiricism divorced from ideology, technocracy – to respond to a genuine epidemic.
“Sustained foreign assistance and, failing that, brutal repression would almost certainly be necessary to prevent a local plague.”
The professor also North Korea’s healthcare system has been “broken for decades” and would be unable to cope.
Professor Kelly however did say a small outbreak would be able to be contained by Pyongyang.
He explained an hint the coronavirus in North Korea would snap Kim’s regime into action.
The expert predicted a campaign of repression would be launched to crackdown on any potential victims.
However, Jean Lee, the director off the Hyundai Motor-Korea Foundation Center for Korean History, told CNN: “North Korea has such a limited supply of basic medicine that public health officials need to focus on preventative medicine.
“They would be ill-equipped to deal with any kind of epidemic”
Choi Jung-hun, a former doctor n North Korea who escaped the regime in 2011, also said Pyongyang does not have the resources to operate full-scale quarantine.
He worked on a measles outbreak within the country in 2006 to 2007 and said medics wee ill-equipped to fight back.
“The problem in North Korea is that manuals are not followed,” the physician explained.
“When there wasn't enough food provided for the people at hospitals and quarantine facilities, people escaped to look for food.”
And meanwhile North Korea faces the threat of sealing its borders and worsening the already crushing economic.
With infections and death totals growing higher every day, scientists and medics worldwide are trying work out how to fight the virus.
It leaves sufferers with a fever and dry cough after an incubation period of up to two weeks.
The disease is believed to be able to spread even before symptoms are showing – and there are fears China is not being honest about the total number of infections.
Disturbing reports have emerged from the virus epicentre of Wuhan, claiming crematoriums are running 24/7 dealing with hundreds of bodies every day.
China is also cracking own on anyone who spreads “unofficial” information amid fears over the extent of the outbreak.
Meanwhile five Brits – reportedly members of the same family – have have tested positive for coronavirus in France.
The four adults and a child were diagnosed after they came into contact with a British national who recently returned from Singapore, the French health ministry said.
The five nationals, who are not in a serious condition, were staying in the Alpine resort area of Contamines-Montjoie near Mont Blanc.
French officials said the British national who was in Singapore returned on January 24 and stayed for four days in the area in eastern France, before returning to England on January 28.
The five Britons whose diagnosis was confirmed, as well as people they had close contact with - 11 people in total, all of British nationality - were taken to hospital on Friday night in Lyon, Saint-Etienne and Grenoble.
The health ministry confirmed their condition shows no signs of seriousness.
A crisis unit has been set up and people who have been in close and prolonged contact with these new cases will be informed during the day and given specific instructions.
The confirmed cases in France came as a British honeymooner transferred from the cruise liner Diamond Princess to hospital in Japan with the coronavirus was said to be feeling well and in good spirits.
Alan Steele, from Wolverhampton, was moved to hospital on Friday while his wife Wendy remained on board the ship.
The liner had been isolated in the port of Yokohama before going back out to sea, with 61 people having been taken to hospitals after testing positive for the virus.