North Korea identifies its first Covid-19 case, state media says

It is not known how many infections have been detected, but the official KCNA news agency reported on Thursday that cases of the Omicron variant had been discovered in the capital Pyongyang.

Samples taken from a group of people with fever on May 8 tested positive for the highly contagious variant of Omicron, KCNA reported.

An epidemic of Covid-19 could prove disastrous for North Korea. The country’s dilapidated healthcare infrastructure is unlikely to be up to the task of treating large numbers of patients with a highly contagious disease.

North Korea had previously acknowledged no cases of coronavirus, although few believe a country of around 25 million people has been spared a virus that has infected millions around the world.

On Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered lockdown measures in all cities and directed the distribution of medical supplies the party would have stockpiled in case of a Covid emergency, according to KCNA.

Kim also chaired a meeting of the country’s powerful political bureau, which agreed to implement “maximum” emergency anti-epidemic measures, although it is unclear what these entail.

According to KCNA, the political bureau criticized the country’s anti-epidemic sector for “negligence, laxity, irresponsibility and incompetence”, saying it “has not responded sensitively” to the increase in cases of Covid-19 around the world, including in neighboring regions.

Kim said the country would overcome “the unexpected outbreak of Covid-19”, KCNA reported.

To date, North Korea has been able to prevent a major outbreak of Covid-19 cases through a series of draconian public health measures.

North Korea’s borders have been sealed since January 2020 to keep the virus at bay, despite the ripple effects on trade with Beijing, an economic lifeline the impoverished country needs to keep its people from going hungry. .

Isolated and impoverished North Korea is not known to have imported coronavirus vaccines, despite being eligible for the global Covid-19 vaccine-sharing program, Covax. In February, Covax reportedly reduced the number of doses allocated to North Korea because the country had not organized any shipments, according to at Reuters.

Also in February, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, Tomás Ojea Quintana, called on the international community to provide North Korea with “60 million doses of vaccines to cover at least two injections of the whole population”.

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