State media reported the “biggest emergency” after Pyongyang detected the BA.2 sub-variant.
North Korea confirmed its first COVID-19 outbreak, state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Thursday, raising fears of a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the only countries not vaccinated.
Authorities have found a sub-variant of a highly circulating Omicron coronavirus variant, BA.2, in people in Pyongyang, KCNA reported, without elaborating on the number of confirmed cases.
“Since February 2020, there has been a breach in our emergency quarantine frontline for the past two years and three months, with the largest emergency in the country,” the NBC said.
North Korea closed its borders in January 2020, one of the few countries on the planet that has not reported a COVID case during the pandemicalthough analysts are skeptical of official figures given the country’s vast and porous land border with China.
North Korea will struggle to deal with a massive coronavirus outbreak after repeatedly rejecting vaccines from COVAX, the UN-backed global vaccination initiative, aid workers have warned.
The isolated country ruled by third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un also suffers from widespread malnutrition and a crumbling health system.
Before the pandemic, the United Nations estimated that more than a quarter of North Koreans were malnourished.
In July, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that the country’s food needs could fall by 860,000 tons by 2021.