North Korea reports corona outbreak for the first time and seals off cities

The isolated North Korea has officially reported cases of infection for the first time since the beginning of the corona pandemic. The capital Pyongyang is also affected. A nationwide lockdown has been imposed.

North Korea has officially confirmed cases of infection with the pathogen for the first time since the beginning of the corona pandemic more than two years ago and imposed a nationwide lockdown. According to state media, the capital Pyongyang is affected by the outbreak. The Politburo of the ruling Workers’ Party classified the outbreak as the “state’s most serious emergency” at a meeting under ruler Kim Jong Un. It was initially unclear how many cases there were.

At first, there was only talk of affected people in an organization who are infected with the omicron subvariant BA.2. South Korea was basically willing to cooperate with the isolated neighboring country on medical care.

Health system rudimentary, vaccination rate unknown

Experts have long warned that impoverished but well-armed North Korea would find it difficult to cope with a corona outbreak due to its inadequate health system. As of Thursday, North Korea was one of the few countries in the world that had not reported a single corona infection to the World Health Organization (WHO). The country’s information that it had been corona-free up to now was always questioned abroad.

So far, nothing is known about nationwide vaccinations. Delivery offers via the Covax initiative, which aims to enable fair access to corona vaccines globally, have so far been rejected. Experts suspect that Pyongyang wants to avoid international controls.

“Maximum Epidemic Emergency Prevention System”

The Politburo has now reportedly decided to move to a “maximum emergency epidemic prevention system.” Ruler Kim Jong Un has ordered all cities and counties to be sealed off to prevent the virus from spreading further. All work and production units would have to be separated from each other.

Kim Jong Un said he was confident that his country would overcome the “unexpected situation”. “The more dangerous enemy than the vicious virus is unscientific fear, lack of faith and weak will,” he was quoted as saying. The Politburo accused the responsible authorities of lax and irresponsible handling of the quarantine regulations.

It was initially unclear whether the “thorough lockdown” ordered also meant a strict curfew for people. A spokeswoman for South Korea’s unification ministry said it still had to be investigated what exactly North Korea meant by a “lockdown”. The ministry said the government in Seoul would actively review potential health care cooperation with North Korea. North Korea is subject to international sanctions for its nuclear weapons program. However, humanitarian aid is excluded from this.

The communist leadership had closed the country’s borders early on because of the pandemic, which also had a strong impact on trade with China. In January of this year, China initially confirmed that it would resume freight traffic with its neighboring country. At the end of April, however, cross-border iron freight traffic was suspended again after new cases of infection in the Chinese border city of Dandong.


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