North Korea announced Friday its first death from Covid-19, adding that the virus has already spread across the country and that tens of thousands of people are currently “isolated and treated”.
The reclusive country reported its first cases of coronavirus on Thursday, saying it was going into “maximum emergency epidemic prevention” mode, after people tested positive for Omicron’s BA.2 subvariant.
The official KCNA news agency claimed on Friday that leader Kim Jong Un visited the national epidemic prevention headquarters where he “learned about the spread of Covid-19 throughout the country”.
Six people with “fever” died in the country, including one who tested positive for Omicron’s BA.2 subvariant, KCNA said. “A fever whose cause could not be identified spread explosively throughout the country from the end of April,” according to KCNA.
“More than 350,000 people presented with fever in a short time and at least 162,200 of them are completely cured”, detailed the same source. “On May 12 alone, some 18,000 people had a fever across the country and, at present, 187,800 people are isolated and treated”.
None of the country’s 25 million population is vaccinated against the coronavirus, with Pyongyang rejecting vaccination offers from the World Health Organization, China and Russia.
Kim Jong Un, who first appeared on television wearing a mask, chaired an emergency politburo meeting on the epidemic situation on Thursday. He ordered containment measures to try to stem the spread of the virus.
“This is the most important challenge and the most important task facing our party to quickly reverse this health crisis situation,” KCNA said.
North Korea, which was one of the first countries in the world to close its borders in January 2020 after the virus emerged in neighboring China, has long boasted of its ability to keep the virus at bay. It had so far not reported any confirmed cases of Covid-19 to the WHO.
Major health crisis?
The virus may have already spread across the country, analysts say, including major April events in Pyongyang, including a military parade on April 25 where neither participants nor spectators wore protective clothing. mask. “The staging of a military parade attended by a large crowd, as the Omicron raged in neighboring China, shows that Pyongyang was overconfident in its abilities to fight and prevent the virus,” he told Reuters. AFP Cheong Seong-chang, North Korea specialist at the Sejong Institute.
The country could face a major health crisis, with Omicron being highly transmissible, he said, noting that Pyongyang has reported nearly 20,000 cases in a single day.
“If the death toll from Omicron skyrockets, Pyongyang may need to seek support from neighboring China,” he added. Beijing on Thursday offered aid to North Korea, whose health infrastructure is notoriously failing. China, the world’s only major economy to maintain a zero Covid policy, however, is grappling with multiple outbreaks of Omicron despite strict lockdowns and massive testing across the country.