The coronavirus is officially in North Korea. The first case of Covid-19 infection since the start of the pandemic has been reported in the country, the official press announced on Thursday, calling it a “serious national emergency”.

This first case, detected during tests carried out on Sunday in Pyongyang on sick and feverish people, “corresponds” to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, said the state agency KCNA. The country’s leader Kim Jong-un announced the establishment of an “extreme emergency” virus control system after a politburo crisis meeting.

An “emergency quarantine project”

“The goal was to eliminate the root as soon as possible,” said the leader quoted by KCNA. “He assured us that because of the strong political consciousness of the population […]we will surely overcome the emergency and succeed with the emergency quarantine project,” the news agency clarified.

​Kim Jong-un called for stricter border control as well as containment measures, asking residents “to completely prevent the spread of the malicious virus by completely locking down their neighborhoods in all cities and counties across the country.” All productive and commercial activities will be organized in such a way that each work unit is “isolated” to prevent the spread of the virus.

Completely closed borders

The country completely closed its borders from the start of the pandemic in 2020, at the expense of its economy. Pyongyang had not announced any confirmed cases of Covid-19 until Thursday. According to the World Health Organization, North Korea had conducted 13,259 tests for Covid-19 in 2020, all of which turned out to be negative. Observers believe that the country’s very weak health system would have struggled to overcome a major epidemic.

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