North Korea confirms Covid outbreak, declares ‘severe national emergency’
It is the first time North Korea confirmed Covid cases since closing its borders at the start of the pandemic
North Korea declared a “severe national emergency” on Thursday after confirming its first Covid outbreak, prompting its leader Kim Jong Un to order a national lockdown, according to state media.
The official KCNA news agency reported that a sub-variant of the highly transmissible omicron virus was detected in the capital city of Pyongyang.
“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,” KCNA said.
The report did not detail how many people were infected or how the virus began to spread.
Previously, North Korea claimed that it did not record a single case of Covid since it closed its borders at the start of the pandemic more than two years ago.
As the first public admission of Covid cases, it highlights the potential for a major crisis in a country that is already isolated and facing economic hardships, and presents a serious risk as its population of 25 million is unvaccinated and its healthcare system is poorly resourced, experts said.
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Kim has rejected vaccines offered by the UN-backed Covax distribution program, possibly because administering jabs would require international monitoring, according to The Guardian.