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North Korea orders lockdown with first official Covid cases

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North Korea has ordered a strict national lockdown after confirming its first official Covid infections.

The North Korean state media claimed an Omicron outbreak in Pyongyang, but did not specify the number of patients.

According to KCNA, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has pledged to end the epidemic, which they describe as a “grave national emergency” that has broken the country’s “quarantine barrier.”

However, observers believe the virus has been present in the country for some time.

Outsiders claim North Korea’s 25 million people are at risk since the country has refused to implement a Covid-19 immunisation programme, even refusing international offers to give millions of AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines last year.

Concerns have also been expressed concerning North Korea’s ailing healthcare system.

North Korea’s main way of combating Covid has been to seal its foreign borders – it was one of the first countries to do so in January 2020. But this has also stopped essential supplies from entering the country, which has led to food shortages and a cratering economy.

On Thursday KCNA said Mr Kim had ordered “maximum emergency” virus controls, which appeared to include orders for localised lockdowns and gathering restrictions in workplaces.

The North Korean news outlet added that the first case of the Omicron variant had been reportedly detected in the capital four days ago.

According to NK News, a Seoul-based monitoring site, residents in several Pyongyang neighbourhoods had been under lockdown for at least two days previous to the latest declaration.

In reaction to the outbreak, the South Korean government says it has reiterated its offer of humanitarian help to the North.

Pyongyang has not responded yet.

 

bbc

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