North Korea declares Covid-19 ‘severe emergency’
North Korea on Thursday confirmed its first-ever case of Covid-19, with state media declaring it a “severe national emergency incident” after more than two years of purportedly keeping the pandemic at bay.
The official KCNA news agency said samples taken from patients sick with fever in Pyongyang on Sunday were “consistent with” the virus’ highly transmissible Omicron variant.
The country’s top officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, held a crisis politburo meeting to discuss the outbreak and announced they would implement a “maximum emergency” virus control system.
KCNA said Kim told the meeting that “the goal was to eliminate the root within the shortest period of time.”
“He assured us that because of the people’s high political awareness … we will surely overcome the emergency and win the emergency quarantine project,” it said.
Kim called for tighter border controls and lockdown measures, telling citizens “to completely block the spread of the malicious virus by thoroughly blocking their areas in all cities and counties across the country,” KCNA said.
All business and production activities will be organised so each work unit is “isolated” to prevent the spread of disease, it added.
The impoverished nuclear-armed nation has been behind a rigid self-imposed coronavirus blockade since early 2020 to protect itself from the pandemic, with the economy suffering and trade all but stopped.
North Korea had not confirmed a single case of coronavirus until Thursday.
According to the World Health Organization, North Korea had by the end of 2020 conducted 13,259 Covid-19 tests, which all came back negative.
Analysts have said North Korea’s crumbling health system would struggle to cope with a major virus outbreak.