Experts warn that North Korea risks becoming the epicenter of new variants due to the reduced immunity of the population to the virus.
North Korea has so far confirmed that it has no positive cases, although many experts have questioned the veracity of this claim. However, the announcement notes that the circumstances of this outbreak warrant public acceptance.
North Korean state media said that tests conducted on Sunday on a group of people from an unknown organization in Pyongyang showed symptoms of fever. The results subsequently indicated that they were infected with the BA.2 subtype virus.
North Korea has already been in a strict lockdown of the epidemic, banning tourists, diplomats, aid workers and most overland trade with China. On Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un tightened border controls, ordering the closure of all cities and provinces. State media described the outbreak as “the most serious national emergency”.
NK News, a website based in Seoul focused on monitoring North Korea, Notified this week That people in Pyongyang were ordered to close after warnings of a “national problem”. Personnel told the outlet that there is panic buying and a shortage of supplies as residents fear a prolonged lockdown in the capital.
In recent weeks, North Korea’s state media has repeatedly warned against taking greater precautions for the COVID-19 virus due to the outbreak along its border with China, and urged the public to “reinforce anti-epidemic efforts in preparation for the protracted emergency.”
The Politburo blamed the “neglect, inaction, irresponsibility and incompetence” of the pandemic sector for the outbreak, according to state media. Although Kim has been frank at times about his regime’s failures and problems, such as acknowledging “food crisisIt is worth noting that North Korea acknowledges that there are loopholes in its anti-virus measures.
On Thursday, Kim warned of any further loopholes and called for more vigilance along its border with China. He said the North Korean people have already endured a “protracted emergency battle against the virus” and will overcome the crisis.
“What is more dangerous for us than the virus is unscientific fear, lack of confidence and willpower,” Kim was quoted as saying by state media.
Later in the day, Kim Appeared on state TV He wears a mask at the start of a Politburo meeting, the first time the totalitarian leader has been seen wearing a mask in public.
NEW: Kim Jong-un was seen wearing a mask at the beginning and end of the Politburo meeting that announced the first outbreak of the coronavirus in North Korea. This is likely the first time that Kim has appeared in state media wearing a mask since the global pandemic.
– NK NEWS (@nknewsorg) 12 May 2022
Jo Myung-hyun, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Political Studies in Seoul, said that although this is not the first case of coronavirus in North Korea, it may have provided an opportunity for Kim to underscore his efforts to control the virus – especially given the reports which is already revolving around the closure of Pyongyang.
“I think the main reason the regime officially acknowledged the presence of the coronavirus in the country is that it happened in Pyongyang, and the regime knows that sooner or later the world will find out,” Gu said. “Maybe it’s more about showing control than crying for help.”
Pyongyang has repeatedly rejected offers of millions of doses of A Global vaccination efforts supported by the United Nations. North Korea Strict border closureWhich allows only minimal trade with China, has exacerbated the country’s food crisis, according to the United Nations.
Last year, North Korea rejected nearly 3 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccine after previously rejecting 2 million doses of AstraZeneca — apparently out of concern about reports of side effects.
Ki Park, a global health expert at Harvard Medical School who has worked on health care projects in North Korea, called on the international community to help North Korea respond to the abuse, including offers of mRNA vaccines and treatments.
“They will need to reconsider taking additional measures to protect their population, including national vaccination programmes,” Park said. It is in everyone’s interest to help North Korea respond to the abuse. Nobody wants another variant.”
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