PYONGYANG: North Korea has confirmed its first case of COVID-19 and declared a “severe national emergency,” with leader Kim Jong Un vowing to “eradicate” the virus, officials said. The media reported on Thursday.
Poor, nuclear-armed country has never acknowledged the COVID-19 case, and the government has imposed strict corona virus blockades on its borders since the onset of the epidemic in 2020.
But the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that samples taken from fever patients in the capital were “consistent” with the highly transmitted Omicron strain of the virus.
Top officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, convened a crisis politburo meeting to discuss the outbreak and announced that they would implement a “maximum emergency” virus control system.
According to KCNA, Kim told the meeting that “the goal was to eradicate the root in the shortest possible time.”
“They assured us that because of the high level of political awareness of the people … we will definitely overcome the emergency and win the emergency quarantine plan,” he said.
Kim called on citizens to tighten border controls and lockdown measures to “completely block the spread of the harmful virus by completely blocking their areas in all cities and counties across the country.”
KCNA added that all business and production activities would be organized so that each work unit would be kept “isolated” to prevent the spread of the disease.
Experts believe that North Korea has not vaccinated any of its 25 million people, the World Health Organization and China and Russia have rejected the vaccine offer.
Experts say North Korea’s dilapidated health system will fight a major virus outbreak.
North Korea is surrounded by countries that have fought wars – or are still fighting to overcome them – the major epidemic of omega-3s.
South Korea, which has a high rate of vaccination, has recently eased almost all COVID-19 restrictions, with cases dropping sharply since the Omicron fuel-powered spike in March.
Neighboring China, the world’s only major economy that still maintains a zero-COVID policy, is battling multiple Omicron outbreaks.
China’s major cities, including the financial capital Shanghai, have been under severe lockdown for weeks.
Seoul-based expert site NK News reports that areas of Pyongyang have been closed for two days.
The site quoted Pyongyang sources as saying, “Several sources have also heard reports of panic shopping due to uncertainty about when the lockdown may end.”
North Korea has long been proud of its ability to keep the virus at bay.
In a military parade in 2020, Kim Jong Un repeatedly and effectively thanked civilians and the military for their loyalty and for staying healthy during the global Corona virus epidemic.
The World Health Organization said that from January 3, 2020 to May 11 this year, there were zero confirmed cases of COD-19 and zero deaths from North Korea.
State media have previously reported on “epidemic prevention” measures, and sometimes ordinary citizens are seen wearing masks in official photos.
But in a huge military parade broadcast by state media in Pyongyang late last month, none of the thousands of spectators or participants were seen wearing masks.
Analysts say North Korea’s health crisis could potentially disrupt the country’s proliferation of illicit weapons.
Pyongyang has tested more than a dozen weapons so far this year, including firing a full-range intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time since 2017.
Satellite imagery suggests North Korea is preparing for a nuclear test, and the United Nations has warned that it could be as early as this month.
“The nuclear test is likely to be delayed in order to focus on controlling the corona virus,” Yang Mo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, told AFP.
But he said that if public fears of an epidemic were to spread, at least one test could be used to “divert that fear elsewhere.”