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After establishing its first official Covid infections, North Korea has imposed a severe countrywide lockdown.

North Korea in lockdown after its first covid case

The North Korea state media claimed an Omicron outbreak in Pyongyang, but did not specify the number of patients. The country’s “quarantine front” had been breached, according to KCNA, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was in emergency consultations to prepare the country’s response.

However, observers believe the virus has been present in the country for some time. North Korea has not given its people the Covid-19 vaccination, having turned down offers of both the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine and AstraZeneca vaccines.

According to KCNA, Kim ordered “all cities and counties across the country to completely shut down their territories” to “absolutely halt the transmission of malicious virus.”

Until Thursday, Kim’s dictatorship denied having any Covid cases, a claim that specialists in the United States, Japan, and other countries questioned. It has also blocked vaccines from the outside world, with reports claiming that scheduled shipments were halted because North Korea refused to obey rules set by Covax, a UN-backed organization.

“The introduction of a stealth omicron mutant virus into our precincts has caused a catastrophic issue,” the Korean Central News Agency reported. Authorities raised the country’s national quarantine measures to “highest emergency” at a party meeting attended by Kim, according to the report.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the government has kept its borders closed, resulting in a catastrophic economic crisis and food shortages as the flow of necessary supplies to the impoverished country was drastically limited.

There have been indications that the virus has already entered the country. There have been many unverified reports of Covid cases in the country since the outbreak began. China and South Korea, both neighbors, have seen breakouts, and China is now battling Omicron waves.

Mr. Kim was alleged to have reprimanded top officials over a “grave event” involving Covid in June of last year, but no details were given. Later in September, the state hosted a military parade with lines of soldiers dressed in hazmat suits and masks, which some analysts interpreted as a sign that a special force had been formed to combat Covid’s spread.

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