North Korea declared a “maximum emergency” on Thursday after officials declared the country’s first outbreak of COVID-19, a bleak moment for a reclusive nation as most of its citizens remain unaffected against the virus.
Just a day later, North Korea said a new fever had spread “explosively” across the country, infecting at least 350,000 people and killing at least six people, including One of them has been confirmed to be linked to the coronavirus. At least 18,000 people across the country were diagnosed with fever on Thursday alone, and more than 187,000 were being isolated and treated.
North Korea’s state-run KCNA said on Friday, “a fever for which the cause has not been identified has spread throughout the country since late April, and more than 350,000 people have developed fever.” The agency said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed: “It is the most important challenge and supreme task before our party to quickly reverse the situation of an urgent public health crisis, restore the stability of epidemic containment.” Go and protect the health and well being of our people.”
The figures echo what many other countries experienced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. But for North Korea, which has effectively isolated itself over the past two years and maintained an iron grip on its people, the outbreak presents a public health one. challenges and raises deep concern that it may lead to humanitarian crisis.
State media said on Thursday that officials have found the first case of the highly transmissible Omicron version of the coronavirus, a rare entry from Pyongyang. All North Korean cities and counties were ordered into strict lockdown to prevent any spread.
NK News reported that some experts believe North Korea’s massive military parade on April 25 may have been a superspreader event that led to the current outbreak. Thousands of masked North Koreans attended the event, which marked the 90th anniversary of the country’s military.
Kim herself wore a mask in public on Thursday, which is believed to be the first time she has done so. Yonhap News said the decision reflects the potentially disturbing situation North Korea has with the latest outbreak.
The New York Times noted that North Korea has not accepted any COVID-19 vaccine donations from other countries and that its public health system is poorly prepared. A two-year border closure coupled with tough UN sanctions on China, its main trading partner, and its ballistic weapons programs will add to any pressure on its health infrastructure.
Joshua Pollack, editor of the US-based Nonproliferation Review and a close follower of North Korea, said the country’s years of strategy to keep out COVID-19 only ended when the virus arrived.
“North Korea’s weak public health system has pushed them into a corner: to keep COVID out, they have sealed borders properly [up],” he wrote on Twitter. “But it also excludes most food and medical imports. The public is vulnerable.”
South Korean officials have expressed hope that any request for aid from the North could help restart years of diplomatic talks. The Associated Press reported that Seoul’s unification ministry, which focuses on relations between the two countries, said the country would provide medical aid and other assistance to the North if requested.
The United States said on Thursday it had no immediate plans to share vaccines with Pyongyang, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki accusing the Kim regime of focusing more on military power than medical supplies.
“We continue to support international efforts aimed at the provision of vital humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable North Koreans, and of course, a broader part of the DPRK exploiting its own citizens by not accepting such assistance. continues,” Saki said on Thursday. “It’s not just vaccines. It’s also a range of humanitarian aid that can greatly help people and a country, and instead use the resources they use to build their illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”