North Korea announces its first outbreak of COVID-19

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North Korea raised coronavirus prevention measures on Thursday as leader Kim Jong Un acknowledged for the first time that COVID-19 was spreading in the totalitarian nation.

An unknown number of Pyongyang residents have tested positive for the omicron variant, leading to a nationwide lockdown, according to the country’s national news agency.

Until Thursday, North Korea had said it had been virus-free since the pandemic began more than two years ago, a claim that was dismissed as propaganda by most outside experts. The North shares an 880-mile border with China, where the virus originated.

The isolated nation had avoided vaccine offers from a United Nations distributor, leaving most of the country’s 26 million citizens unvaccinated, observers said.

“Resolute public unity is the strongest guarantee that can win in this fight against the pandemic,” Kim said as he and top ruling party leaders moved to step up unspecified anti-virus measures, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

The announcement came after NK News, a Seoul-based US site dedicated to North Korean news, reported that the nation “abruptly ordered” residents indoors on Tuesday due to a “problem national”.

North Korea’s news agency reported several cases of COVID-19 in Pyongyang.STRINGER/KCNA VIA KNS/AFP via Getty Images
South Korea could not independently confirm the report of the lockdown.

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North Korea was one of the last places on Earth to report a case to the World Health Organization. The authoritarian Asian nation of Turkmenistan still claims to have had no cases.

South Korea said its northern neighbor most likely avoided a large outbreak due to tough pandemic measures that were instituted in early 2020.

A health worker sprays disinfectant at a grocery store in Pyongyang, North Korea.KIM WON JIN/AFP via Getty Images
The North had halted cross-border trade and traffic for two years, banned travel between provinces, decreed mass quarantines and executed a suspected smuggler.

It reopened freight traffic between China’s border city of Sinuiju and Dandong in January, but that trade was halted last month as COVID-19 spread through Dandong.

Experts fear a major COVID-19 outbreak could have a disastrous effect on the country, which is plagued by poor health care and reeling from severe food shortages exacerbated by the pandemic trade embargo and sanctions. American military.

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