North Korea reports first corona outbreak | Current World | DW

The internationally isolated North Korea has reported the first corona outbreak since the pandemic began more than two years ago. The state news agency KCNA said it was a “serious national emergency”. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced nationwide lockdowns.

According to KCNA, samples from patients who fell ill with a fever in the capital Pyongyang on Sunday matched the highly contagious omicron variant BA.2. Kim then told an emergency Politburo meeting that the country would implement a “maximum” quarantine protocol to contain the outbreak. The aim is to “eliminate the root within the shortest possible time”.

First reports of panic buying

Kim called for stricter border controls and lockdown measures. According to KCNA, the ruler urged the authorities to “completely prevent the spread of the vicious virus by thoroughly sealing off their areas in all cities and counties across the country.”

North Korean soldiers wear corona protective masks (archive image)

Seoul-based specialist website NK News reported that areas in Pyongyang had been locked down for two days and there were reports of panic buying.

The country went into lockdown in early 2020 to protect itself from the pandemic. As of Thursday, North Korea had not confirmed a single case of COVID-19. Experts say North Korea’s healthcare system would struggle to cope with a major virus outbreak.

population is not vaccinated

China, North Korea’s neighbor to the north, is fighting outbreaks in several provinces with tough lockdowns, and the economic metropolis of Shanghai has been sealed off for weeks. According to North Korea expert Cheong Seong Chang of the Sejong Institute, North Korea will try to avoid such strict measures as in Shanghai, where citizens are “virtually locked in their homes”. But even less stringent measures would result in “severe food shortages,” he said.

Unlike neighboring countries, hardly anyone in the North Korean population has probably been vaccinated against the virus. North Korea had previously rejected vaccine offers from the World Health Organization (WHO), China and Russia.

nob/fab (afp, ape, rtre)