S.Korean flu aid to reach N.Korea this weekend

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South Korea is expected to deliver enough H1N1 flu drugs for 500,000 people to North Korea as early as this weekend. The drugs are worth about W17.8 billion (US$1=W1,157).

A government official on Monday said North Korea accepted the offer through "a liaison channel," but more consultations about a detailed aid process are needed. The scale of the flu outbreak in North Korea is unknown, but food shortages mean people could be more vulnerable to the disease than elsewhere.

Another official said preparations including securing of vehicles to carry the flu drugs will be completed "as soon as possible" and the delivery should take place around the weekend.

Of the two top-selling treatments believed effective against H1N1 flu, the government plans to deliver enough Tamiflu for 400,000 people and enough Relenza for 100,000, Unification Ministry spokesman Chun Hae-sung said. It will also deliver W1 billion worth of hand gel. "Some W17.8 billion including all incidental expenses will be disbursed from the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund, with a written request under review by the Council for the Promotion of Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation," he added.

North Korea has admitted only nine confirmed H1N1 flu patients, but the ministry decided to provide the North with enough drugs to deal with the initial stage of a bigger outbreak, since the disease spreads faster in winter. The government will ask the North to submit a report on how the drugs have been distributed.