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Thursday, May 26, 2022

North Korea reports first coronavirus death since pandemic began

Latest NewsNorth Korea reports first coronavirus death since pandemic began

Residents of North Korea’s capital Pyongyang are wearing face masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus.KYODO Kyodo (REUTERS)

This Friday, North Korea reported that at least one person has died from the coronavirus and 187,800 people have been isolated due to a fever. The news comes a day after the country admitted it had detected the first coronavirus infection within its borders since the start of the pandemic. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reacted by activating “maximum alert” and ordered a lockdown of the entire nation, whose 25 million people are known not to have been vaccinated in one of the most hermetic dictatorships in the world.

North Korean authorities discovered the current outbreak after testing fever patients in Pyongyang, the country’s capital, last Sunday. State news agency KCNA reported this Friday that more than 350,000 people have contracted a fever since the end of April, “the cause of which could not be determined.” According to the KCNA, 187,800 people are currently in quarantine, 162,000 have recovered. The media adds that on the day of May 12 alone, 18,000 cases of fever and six deaths were reported, although they claim that only one was caused by covid. This death is associated with an omicron BA.2 subvariant that is even more contagious than the original.

Kim Jong-un visited the headquarters of the national epidemic prevention agency on Thursday, where he stressed the importance of blocking the transmission of covid-19 through “isolation of areas” and “isolation and treatment” of people. y patients responsibly. During his review, Kim criticized failures in prevention efforts: “The spread of cases of fever with an epicenter in the metropolitan area shows that there is a vulnerability in our system.”

Although the source of the outbreak is unknown, NK News quoted Jeon Sung Chang, director of the Song Institute’s Center for North Korean Studies, as saying that the April 25 military parade could have been a super-contagious event: “North Korea was overconfident in its ability to isolate. It was risky to put on a military parade of this magnitude while the omicron variant was circulating in neighboring China.” Tens of thousands of people attended an event marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean armed forces, where the regime displayed the missiles it threatens its neighbors with.

North Korea has been completely shut down since February 2020, when China issued a decree to imprison Wuhan. It has only partially reopened a freight train linking it with the Chinese city of Dandong, on the border with the Asian giant, although operations were again suspended after a series of cases were identified in that city. No one has entered the country in the past two years, with the exception of a couple of South Korean defectors who tested negative.

The North Korean leader also presided over an emergency meeting of the leadership of the Workers’ Party on Thursday, where he was first seen wearing a mask. The President urged health authorities to keep all patients with fever symptoms under observation, develop treatment protocols, and further strengthen the country’s measures to provide medicines: the health and well-being of our people, ”collects the CTC.

Although the leader has promised mass testing, increased health care and increased disinfection, outside of Pyongyang, the country lacks modern medical equipment, and virtually no tests have been conducted during these two and a half years of the pandemic. . According to the latest report from the World Health Organization, North Korea has only reported 64,207 coronavirus tests conducted among its citizens as of March 31, all of which are negative.

The regime has also consistently rejected offers of international assistance from China and the WHO COVAX program. The complete lack of immunizations and the strict controls that Pyongyang could impose are raising concerns about the impact they could have on the population. North Korea acknowledged the economic problems caused by border closures to isolate itself from the pandemic, as well as food shortages associated with natural disasters such as droughts and typhoons. Added to all this are international sanctions against his arms program that have choked the country for years.

However, the announcement of the first Covid-19 outbreak did not stop the North Korean military from launching three short-range ballistic missiles from Pyongyang on Thursday afternoon, the 16th launch since the start of the year. The test also comes at a time when Western analysts say the country is preparing a new nuclear test, the first since 2017 and the seventh in its history.

Experts are also wondering what prompted North Korea to declare a health crisis, which came a week after US President Joe Biden visited South Korea to meet with the country’s new leader, Yoon Seok-yeol. Seoul and Washington have repeatedly shown their willingness to offer Pyongyang anti-coronavirus aid packages, including vaccines and medical supplies, aid that could pave the way and improve conditions for resuming dialogue on the denuclearization of the peninsula.


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