North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong Un has described the spread of COVID-19 in his country as a “great disaster”. According to the state news agency KCNA, the country’s ruling Labor Party held an emergency meeting.
“If we don’t lose focus in implementing the epidemic policy and maintain strong organizing power and control based on the unity of the Party and the people, we can overcome the crisis,” Kim said. In the case of nationwide lockdowns, China will be used as a model. The People’s Republic is pursuing a strict zero-COVID strategy, but is increasingly reaching its limits in view of several corona outbreaks.
Cause of death: “Unknown fever”
North Korea reported 21 more deaths, but initially cited an unknown fever as the reason. It was officially left open whether the new deaths were due to infections with the corona virus. According to the KCNA, 27 people have died since the end of April. SARS-CoV-2 was detected in one of them. At the party meeting, disease control staff said that in most cases the cause of death was an overdose of medication “due to a lack of knowledge of treatment methods”.
South Korean television also reports on the corona outbreak in the north – here is a large screen in Seoul
According to KCNA, about 524,440 North Koreans have shown signs of fever since late April. More than 280,000 people are currently receiving medical treatment for this reason. In view of the limited testing options in North Korea, experts believe that the published figures should only reflect a fraction of the infection process. As far as is known, the population in North Korea has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Pyongyang accept support?
Kim confirmed the outbreak of the infectious disease on Thursday and ordered a nationwide lockdown. According to KCNA, a sub-variant of the highly contagious omicron pathogen was discovered in the capital Pyongyang. The first corona death was reported on Friday.
The development could lead to a crisis in the country of around 26 million people. Impoverished North Korea lacks medical resources. The outbreak is likely to exacerbate the already difficult food situation. The country has not yet asked for foreign aid. According to observers, the announcement of the outbreak could be an indication that the government will soon accept support.
South Korea announced that it would send vaccines and other medical supplies to North Korea. The relationship between the two countries is heavily strained. South Korea’s new President Yoon Suk Yeol is demanding a complete denuclearization of the communist north. All attempts to persuade the leadership in Pyongyang to give up their nuclear weapons program have so far failed. North Korea repeatedly carries out missile tests, which are prohibited by the United Nations.
hh/as (afp, rtr)