Update: A day after North Korea confirmed for the first time that it had recorded COVID cases within its capital came this: confirmation of its first COVID death—and cases well beyond Pyongyang. Per state media, five others died after experiencing a fever, but those have not been confirmed as COVID deaths. Some 187,000 people are experiencing fever and are being "isolated and treated," reports the BBC, which quotes the KCNA news agency as saying "a fever whose cause couldn't be identified spread explosively nationwide from late April." The AP notes it’s possible that the spread of the virus was accelerated by a massive military parade in Pyongyang on April 25. Our original story from Thursday follows:
North Korea announced its first coronavirus infection more than two years into the pandemic Thursday as leader Kim Jong Un called for raising COVID-19 preventive measures to maximum levels. The Korean Central News Agency said tests from an unspecified number of people in the capital Pyongyang confirmed they were infected with the omicron variant. North Korea had previously claimed a perfect record in keeping out COVID-19, a claim widely doubted by outside experts, reports the AP.
To keep the virus from entering its territory, North Korea had closed its border to nearly all trade and visitors for two years. It in January tentatively reopened railroad freight traffic between its border town of Sinuiju and China’s Dandong, but China announced a halt to the trade last month as it deals with a spread of COVID-19 in Dandong. North Korea so far has shunned vaccines offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program, possibly because those have international monitoring requirements. With infection confirmed, KCNA said Kim called a meeting of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party’s Politburo where members decided to raise its anti-virus measures.
Kim during the meeting called for officials to stabilize transmissions and eliminate the infection source as fast as possible—while pushing ahead with scheduled construction, agricultural development, and other state projects and bolstering the country’s defense postures to avoid any security vacuum. Kim said officials must also formulate steps to ease any public inconveniences and other negative situations that could flare as a result of the boosted anti-pandemic measures. Kim said that “the single-minded public unity is the most powerful guarantee that can win in this anti-pandemic fight,” KCNA said.
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