North Korea identifies its first case of Covid-19, state media reports
Samples collected from a group of people experiencing fevers on May 8 tested positive for the highly contagious Omicron variant, KCNA reported.
An outbreak of Covid-19 could prove dire for North Korea. The country’s dilapidated health care infrastructure is unlikely to be up to the task of treating a large number of patients with a highly infectious disease.
North Korea had not previously acknowledged any coronavirus cases, though few believe that a country of around 25 million people has been spared by a virus that has infected millions worldwide.
On Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered lockdown measures in all cities and directed the distribution of medical supplies the party had reportedly stocked in case of a Covid emergency, according to KCNA.
Kim also chaired a meeting of the country’s powerful politburo, which agreed to implement “maximum” emergency anti-epidemic measures, though it is unclear what they involve.
According to KCNA, the politburo criticized the country’s anti-epidemic sector for “carelessness, laxity, irresponsibility and incompetence,” saying it “failed to respond sensitively” to increasing Covid-19 cases across the world, including in neighboring regions.
Kim said the country would overcome the “unexpected Covid-19 outbreak,” KCNA reported.
To date, North Korea has been able to prevent a major outbreak of Covid-19 cases thanks to a series of draconian public health measures.
North Korea’s borders have been sealed since January 2020 to keep the virus at bay, despite the knock-on effects on trade with Beijing, an economic lifeline the impoverished country needs to keep its people from going hungry.