North Korea’s Kim says Covid has caused ‘great turmoil’ as 21 new deaths reported

·2-min read
People watch a TV screen showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at a train station in Seoul, South Korea (Associated Press)
People watch a TV screen showing a file image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at a train station in Seoul, South Korea (Associated Press)

Kim Jong-un said the spread of Covid-19 had put North Korea in “great turmoil” as he asked for an all-out fight against the virus outbreak in the country on Saturday.

The hermit kingdom, which closed its frontiers entirely when the pandemic began in 2020, reported 21 deaths and 174,000 new cases of “fever” on Saturday, just days after it confirmed the spread of coronavirus in the country.

Sporting a surgical mask, Mr Kim also chaired an emergency meeting on Saturday where he said the “spread of the coronavirus is very serious in the world, and means great upheaval for our country”, reported NK News.

“If we don’t lose focus in implementing epidemic policy and maintain strong organisation power and control based on single-minded unity of the party and the people and strengthen our epidemic battle, we can more than overcome the crisis,” the North Korean leader said in the meeting.

Mr Kim also asked his administration’s officials to study “quarantine policies, successes and experiences” of other countries, especially China. Officials have been asked to “actively follow” their accounts, suggesting Pyongyang could duplicate Beijing’s strategy to overcome the Covid spread.

In the emergency meeting, it was revealed that more than half a million North Koreans suffered “fever symptoms” after an “explosive” spread struck Pyongyang in April.

According to Mr Kim, the cases of fevers are “not yet spreading uncontrollably between regions” as he sought strict lockdowns and quarantining measures in affected regions.

Details of Covid testing in the east Asian country are not immediately clear.

But the Harvard Medical School’s Kee Park said the country has been testing 1,400 people a week, which is significantly lower than needed to bring the disease spread under control.

The North Korean administration and state media have not shared what areas are affected.

Deaths reported after North Korea disclosed the first-ever case of Covid have also not been attributed to the virus by the state media. However, one death was caused due to the Omicron variant of the virus, reported the Korean Central News Agency.

According to epidemic control officials, the deaths in “most cases” were “caused by negligence including drug overdose due to lack of knowledge on treatment methods”, the report added.

Mr Kim said that while the crisis had struck North Korea due to the irresponsibility of party organisations in their response to the epidemic, the transmission was not uncontrollable and the country must have faith in its battle to overcome the crisis in the shortest possible period.

The leader has also offered to donate medical supplies from his household to the families reeling from the medical emergency, the report said.

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