The North Korean government has always insisted that there had been no Covid-19 cases within its country’s borders.
But today Pyongyang admitted for the first time that the pandemic had spread to North Korea.
Leader Kim Jong-un has for the last two years been boasting that his country’s strict “quarantine front” had held firm when every other country in the world’s defences had failed.
“There has been the biggest emergency incident in the country, with a hole in our emergency quarantine front, that has been kept safely over the past two years and three months since February 2020,” the official KCNA news agency said.
Kim has now ordered a strict national lockdown after revealing that there has been an Omicron outbreak in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. There’s no official word on how many cases have been reported or how severely affected the victims are.
North Korea has never implemented a vaccine programme, instead relying on the strength of its borders, and experts say that the country’s 25 million inhabitants could be at severe risk.
NK News, a South Korean news site, reported that some areas of Pyongyang had been under lockdown conditions for at least two days before the official announcement.
The organisation reported that “multiple sources have also heard reports of panic buying due to uncertainty of when the lockdown might end”.
In a bid to eliminate the virus “within the shortest period of time,” strict measures to control contact in workplaces have been implemented.
Kim told North Koreans “to completely block the spread of the malicious virus by thoroughly blocking their areas in all cities and counties across the country”.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, told the Guardian that Pyongyang’s public acknowledgment of the outbreak meant “the public health situation must be serious”.
However, it’s thought that Kim will continue to refuse the international offers of vaccines and other medical supplies because he wants to maintain his country’s isolation from the rest of the world.