North Korea’s Leader, Kim Jong-un, has criticized health officials and ordered the country’s army to help in medicine distribution, as a wave of Covid cases sweeps through the country.
State media disclosed that Mr. Kim led an emergency politburo (principal policymaking committee of a communist party) meeting where he accused officials of inexperienced distribution of the national medicine reserves. He ordered that the “powerful forces” of the army’s medical corps step in to “immediately stabilise the supply of medicines in Pyongyang City”. Additionally, Mr. Kim imposed “maximum emergency” virus controls, including lockdowns and gathering restrictions in workplaces.
According to state media, more than a million people have now been sickened by what Pyongyang is calling a “fever”. Per records, it showed that some 50 people have died, but it is unclear how many of those deaths tested positive for Covid. North Korea has a limited testing capacity, so few cases have been confirmed so far.
What are Health Experts Saying?
Health Experts, on the other hand, are warning that North Koreans are likely to be more vulnerable to the virus due to a lack of vaccinations and a poor healthcare system.
The country announced its first confirmed Covid-19 cases last week, although experts believe the virus has likely been circulating in the country for some time even before the official announcement of recorded cases.
So far, the international community offered to supply North Korea with millions of AstraZeneca and Chinese-made jabs last year, 2021, but Pyongyang (North Korea’s capital) claimed it controlled the Covid by sealing its borders early in January 2020. North Korea shares land borders with South Korea and China, which have both battled the virus outbreak. Currently, China is struggling to contain an Omicron wave with lockdowns in its biggest cities.
South Korea has offered to send unlimited aid to the North if requested, including vaccine doses, health workers, and medical equipment.
On Sunday, May 15, 2022, Mr. Kim called the rapidly spreading Covid-19 outbreak a “great disaster”. The spread of the malignant epidemic is [the greatest] turmoil to fall on our country since the founding”, the official KCNA news agency quoted him as saying.
As well as the direct health impact, fears have been raised about food production in North Korea. The country suffered a brutal famine during the 1990s, and today the World Food Programme estimated that 11 million of the country’s 25 million people are undernourished. If agricultural workers are unable to tend the fields, analysts say, the implications are extremely serious.