Image Source: ABC
North Korean government put its entire country under ‘strict national’ lockdown after authorities announced first confirmed Covid case.
The Omicron outbreak, as per state media, was discovered in the nation’s capital, Pyongyang. Reports withheld the actual number of reported cases.
Country leader Kim Jong-Un addressed his constituents earlier today, May 12, and assured them that they would eliminate the outbreak. Mr. Kim was seen wearing a face mask — believed to be the first time he wore one.
Up until now, North Korea has been rejecting vaccination offers from other countries, exposing the nation’s 25 million people to the deadly virus. Many foreign countries offered Astrazeneca and Sinovac shots to North Korea months before. However, its government shunned the help and instead resorted to closing its borders.
Months later, the country finds itself burdened with the entry of the viral disease, with all of its population genetically unprepared to counter it.
According to a South Korea-based monitoring site, many areas in Pyongyang have already been put under strict and localized lockdowns. “Maximum emergency” virus controls and other arrangements were also set into motion by the North Korean authorities as per Mr. Kim’s televised address.
Meanwhile, South Korea renews its offer of humanitarian assistance to its northern counterpart. Pyongyang is yet to reply.
Several reports and insights from experts posit that North Korea is in a problematic state because of a complicated healthcare system. Coupled with millions of unvaccinated citizens and a limited number of test kits, North Korea is racing with time.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University, said North Korea might lessen its nuclear activities following the development. He explained that this possible recline for nuclear-related activities could be attributed to the “urgent threat involving coronavirus rather than a foreign military.”
The South Korean Military announced that North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles toward the Sea of Japan only hours after Mr. Kim announced the outbreak. The activity garnered several reactions from experts.
University of North Korean Studies professor Yong Moo-jin said North Korea could lessen its nuclear activities to thwart the outbreak. Although it is possible that when things escalate, and there would be widespread fear, Mr. Kim may be prompted to restart nuclear missile testing “to divert this fear to another place.”
In contrast to the government’s claim of successfully keeping Covid out, many reports have shown otherwise. In June of last year, some officials were punished because of “Covid-related issues.”
In September, soldiers were seen wearing facemasks and hazmat suits. Analysts were quick to express their hypothesis, saying that it might be North Korea creating a special task force against Covid.
It can be noted that North Korea was one of the few countries that immediately closed its borders after the pandemic started. Last January 2020, Mr. Kim ordered a nationwide lockdown. While this presented a solution to stop Covid from locally spreading, it barred products from entering the country — leading to food shortages.
Whatever the developments were, North Korea has now announced that despite wide lockdown measures, it is now facing a mutual threat from the rest of the world.
Opinions expressed by NY Weekly contributors are their own.