North Korea confirms first Covid case, Kim Jong Un orders lockdown

North Korea has confirmed its first coronavirus case since the start of the pandemic and imposed a city lockdown, as health experts warned of the potential impact of an outbreak in a country that has yet to launch a vaccination campaign.

An unknown number of people in Pyongyang have been infected with the Omicron variant of Covid-19, state news agency KCNA said on Thursday. “The largest emergency in the country over the past two years and three months since February 2020, a breach in our emergency quarantine fronts has kept us safe,” the report said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered “all cities and counties in the country to completely block their areas” to “completely block the spread of the malicious virus.”

After the coronavirus emerged in early 2020, Kim Jong-un sealed borders with China and Russia, tightened domestic movement restrictions and expelled foreign diplomats and aid workers.The country only allows Shipping is very limited Goods from China must pass through specially constructed disinfection centers.

China has Been struggling with the Omicron outbreak Since March, it has pledged to provide “full support and assistance” to North Korean authorities.

“China and the DPRK are friendly neighbors linked by mountains and rivers, and the two sides have a fine tradition of helping each other,” said Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry.

“Since the outbreak of the new crown pneumonia epidemic, North Korea has firmly supported China’s fight against the epidemic, and China is deeply grateful for this.”

Like Eritrea, North Korea is one of only two countries in the world that has not yet launched a Covid-19 vaccination program, and it has been refusal to provide vaccines Through the World Health Organization’s Covax Initiative.

Pyongyang has expressed concerns about the safety of AstraZeneca’s vaccine and has refused to provide vaccines from Russia and China.

The government is thought to want tens of millions of mRNA vaccines, or wait for the widespread proliferation of oral antiviral treatments, according to health experts.

Experts have long expressed concern Outbreak Consequences In a country with a severe shortage of ventilators and testing facilities.

“North Koreans without existing protections face a certain risk that excess mortality could rise substantially, especially among vulnerable, food-insecure populations,” said Peter Ward, a North Korea economics expert based in Seoul and at the University of Vienna. .

Kim’s border closure also intensified from international sanctions North Korea imposed sanctions on North Korea in response to its nuclear and ballistic missile tests in 2017, as well as a series of droughts and floods.

“The economy has already been hit hard, and continued lockdowns could further severely impact the city’s business economy,” Ward said. “They will make it harder for the poorer segments of urban society to make ends meet.”

North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party Politburo denounced the “carelessness, laxness, irresponsibility and incompetence” of health officials, the KCNA report quoted North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party.

Additional reporting by Emma Zhou in Beijing

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