North Korea confirmed its first death from COVID-19 on Friday, saying the “explosive” fever was spreading across the country, and tens of thousands of people were isolated after falling ill.
The island nation only on Thursday announced its first cases of COVID, saying it was moving to a “system of maximum emergency prevention of the epidemic” after sick patients in the capital, Pyongyang, tested positive for the Omicron option.
North Korea has been under a severe coronavirus blockade since the start of the 2020 pandemic, but with massive Omicron outbreaks in all neighboring countries, experts said it was only a matter of time before COVID crept in.
“The fever, the cause of which could not be determined, has exploded across the country since late April,” the official Central News Agency of Korea said.
“Six people died (one of them tested positive for Omicron BA.2),” the statement added.
With its 25 million people not vaccinated against COVID, North Korea’s destroyed healthcare infrastructure will struggle with serious flashexperts say.
“On May 12 alone, there were about 18,000 people with fever across the country, and currently up to 187,800 people are in isolation and treatment,” KCNA said.
Leader Kim Jong Un, first seen in a mask on state television, oversaw an emergency meeting of the Politburo on Thursday and ordered a shutdown across the country to stop the spread of the virus.
On Friday, the KCNA said Kim had visited the state headquarters for emergency prevention and “learned about the spread of COVID-19 across the country.”
“The most important task and the most important task facing our Party is to change the immediate health crisis in the shortest possible time,” KCNA added.
– “The Great Chaos” –
The large-scale nationwide outbreak is likely due to a huge military parade held in Pyongyang on April 25, said Cheong Seong Chang of the Sejong Institute.
He said North Korea could see “great chaos” due to the rapid spread of Omicron, given that the country currently reports nearly 20,000 cases in one day.
“When death toll from the Omicron jumps Pyongyang may have to ask for China’s support, ”he added.
Beijing, Pyongyang’s only major ally and benefactor, said Thursday it was ready to help North Korea with its COVID-19 outbreak.
But China, the only major economy in the world that still maintains a zero-COVID-19 policy, is itself battling multiple outbreaks of Omicron, and some major cities, including Shanghai’s financial hub, are subject to strict procedures to stay home.
North Korea has previously rejected offers of vaccines against COVID from China as well as from the World Health Organization’s Covax scheme.
In South Korea, the new administration of President Yun Suk Ye has offered to send vaccines to the North, but acknowledged that it has not yet discussed it with Pyongyang.
Kim said Friday that the outbreak of the fever “shows that there is a vulnerable point in the epidemic prevention system,” and called for more closure.
Kim “said it was a priority to block the spread of the virus by actively blocking areas as well as isolating and treating people with fevers responsibly,” KCNA reported.
Analysts said China’s experience with Omicron shows that the blockade may be unsuccessful, but without antiviral treatment or vaccines in North Korea there are several other options.
-Nuclear distraction –
North Korea has conducted a test launch of three short-range ballistic missiles, Seoul said Thursday, shortly after Pyongyang confirmed its first COVID cases.
After high-profile talks broke down in 2019, North Korea has halved its weapons tests by holding blitz launches this year, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Satellite imagery shows that North Korea is preparing to conduct nuclear tests, and the United States warns that this could happen as early as this month.
If Pyongyang needs help – vaccines and drugs – it may be necessary to postpone the test, some analysts say, but others warn that the outbreak of COVID-19 could accelerate everything.
“A nuclear test it would be a good way to distract the public from the pandemic, ”said Yang Mu Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies.
© 2022 AFP
Citation: North Korea has confirmed the first death from COVID-19 as a result of the “explosive” outbreak (2022, May 13), obtained on May 13, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-05-north-korea- covid-death-explosive.html
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