North Korea confirmed its first coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic and imposed city lockdowns, as health experts warned of the potential impact of an outbreak in a country that is not did not conduct a vaccination campaign.
State news agency KCNA said on Thursday that an unknown number of people in Pyongyang had contracted the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
“There has been the biggest emergency incident in the country, with a hole in our emergency quarantine front, which has kept us safe for the past two years and three months since February 2020”says the report.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered “all cities and counties in the country to completely lock down their areas” in order to ” completely block the transmission of malicious viruses”.
Kim closed borders with China and Russia, tightened restrictions inside the country and expelled foreign diplomats and aid workers after the coronavirus emerged in early 2020.
The country has only allowed very limited freight transport from China, which must pass through specially constructed buildings. disinfection centers.
China, which has been battling an outbreak of Omicron since March, has pledged “full support and assistance” to the North Korean authorities.
“China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are friendly neighbors bound by mountains and rivers, and the two sides have a fine tradition of helping each other.”said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.
Along with Eritrea, North Korea is one of only two countries in the world that has not launched a vaccination program against Covid-19 and has always refused offers of vaccines through the Covax initiative. of the World Health Organization.
Experts have long feared the consequences of an outbreak in a country that suffers from a severe shortage of ventilators and testing facilities.
Kim’s border closures have also intensified the economic damage from international sanctions imposed on North Korea in response to its 2017 nuclear and ballistic missile tests, as well as the effects of a series of droughts and floods.