North Korea issues alert after confirming first COVID-19 case

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Thursday announced its first coronavirus infection in more than two years of the pandemic, as leader Kim Jong Un called for COVID-19 precautions to be raised to the highest level.

KCNA said tests of an unspecified number of people in the capital Pyongyang confirmed they were infected with the omicron variant. North Korea has previously claimed that it has a flawless record in preventing COVID-19, a claim that has been widely disputed by outside experts.

Kim Jong-un called a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Politburo, and members decided to boost its anti-virus measures, the agency said. During the meeting, Kim called on officials to stabilize the spread and eliminate the source of infection as soon as possible.

Despite the decision to ramp up anti-virus measures, Kim Jong-un ordered officials to move forward with planned construction, agricultural development and other state projects, while strengthening the country’s defense posture to avoid any security vacuum.

Officials must also put in place measures to mitigate any public inconvenience and other negative situations that may arise from heightened measures to combat the virus, King said. “One-hearted public solidarity is the strongest guarantee to win this fight against the epidemic,” Kim Jong-un said.

North Korea has closed its borders to almost all trade and tourists for two years in an effort to prevent the virus from entering its territory, further shocking a country already crippled by decades of mismanagement and U.S.-led sanctions on its nuclear weapons and missile programs economy.

North Korea temporarily reopened rail freight between the border town of Sinuiju and China’s Dandong in January, but China last month announced a halt to trade as it deals with the spread of COVID-19 in Dandong.

North Korea has so far shunned vaccines from the UN-backed COVAX distribution program, likely because of international surveillance requirements for the vaccines.

For more information, visit the Washington Times COVID-19 Resources page.

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