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North Korea reports first COVID-19 outbreak, imposes ‘strictest emergency’ shutdown

North Koreans wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus in Pyongyang. (Photo: Reuters)

This is the first time North Korea has publicly announced the detection of infections COVID-19. This suggests the potential for a major crisis in a country that lacks medical resources and has refused international help in vaccination and closing its borders.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of March, no cases of COVID-19 infection in North Korea have been reported, and there is no official record of any people in the country. This family has been vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The report said that samples taken on May 8 from people with fever in Pyongyang showed that the patient was infected with the virus. sub-variant BA.2 of Omicron, but did not specify the number of cases or the source of infection.

On May 12, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un convened an emergency meeting of the Politburo, ordered a “strict shutdown” across the country and mobilized emergency medical supplies. .

“The state’s epidemic prevention and control work will be transferred to the maximum emergency epidemic prevention and control system,” the state news agency KCNA said.

North Korea reports first COVID-19 outbreak, imposes

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un chairs an emergency meeting on responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, May 12, 2022. (Photo: KCNA)

North Korea has never officially confirmed any cases of COVID-19. South Korean and US officials said an outbreak in the country cannot be ruled out because Pyongyang had trade and exchanges with China before closing the border in early 2020.

North Korea has enforced strict quarantine measures, including restrictions on movement within the province and between provinces. In July 2020, North Korea declared a state of emergency and imposed a three-week blockade in Kaesong province, near the inter-Korean border, after a man who defected to South Korea in 2017 returned with medical conditions. symptoms of COVID-19.

The latest WHO data shows that 64,207 out of 25 million North Koreans have been tested for COVID-19 as of March 31, and all have tested negative.

North Korea has refused to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX program and the Sinovac vaccine from China, which suggests that the majority of people in the country may not be vaccinated.

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