North Korea reported its first COVID-19 outbreak


In the face of the country’s “gravest emergency,” leader Kim Jong-Un ordered a national lockdown in North Korea

North Korea confirmed its first COVID-19 outbreak on Thursday, May 12, 2022. The country’s state news agency Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the first case of Omicron BA.2, a sub-variant of COVID-19 virus had been detected in the state capital Pyongyang.


North Korea reported its first COVID-19 outbreak
Source: Kyodo/via REUTERS

According to KCNA, tests were conducted on several fever-ridden people with similar symptoms to COVID on Sunday. It was later found that they had been infected with the disease.

Describing it as a “state of emergency” the official news agency further said, “The state’s most serious emergency has occurred: A break emerged in our emergency epidemic prevention front that had been firmly defended until now,”

However, officials from the US and South Korea have previously said that there could have been earlier cases detected in the country given the close trade and travel dealings with China before it sealed its border in February 2020.

North Korea is known to be a highly centralized totalitarian state under the rule of leader Kim Jong-Un. Since the initiation of the COVID-19 outbreak the country has sealed its border and also imposed strict restrictions on travel between provinces.

North Korea reported its first COVID-19 outbreak
At the Worker’s Party meeting on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 12, 2022, Source: REUTERS

On May 12, Leader Kim Jong-Un and other top officials of the country held an emergency politburo meeting in light of the situation. According to the official statement, the meeting aimed at curtailing the virus and eliminating the source of transmission.

KCNA stated the leader declared a state of emergency in response to the “unprecedented crisis,” urging all cities and counties to “thoroughly lock down” their territories to stop the spread of the virus.

Previously the isolated country has declined the offer of U.S. backed COVAX sharing program and the Sinovac Biotech vaccine from China- making them the only unvaccinated country in the world.

The newly elected President of South Korea Yoon Suk-yeol has expressed his thoughts and assured to provide aid shipments and vaccines without linking humanitarian assistance with political differences. However, it is unclear whether the outbreak would lead to the North changing its mind about cooperation.

Meanwhile, the South Korean military force revealed that North Korea has fired three ballistic missiles on May 12. Possibly, after the acknowledgment of the first COVID outbreak.

The news has been backed by Japan’s Defense Ministry as the coastguard confirmed the launch and alerted, “North Korea appears to have launched a missile.”

Despite having limited resources North Korea has managed to develop nuclear weapons and there are frequent instances caught on satellite imagery that indicates North Korea is preparing for nuclear testing. However, the public emergence of COVID in Pyongyang could also have repercussions on North Korea’s nuclear program.

 Homeland to approximately 26 million people North Korea is an impoverished country under the strict dictatorship of Kim Jong-Un and his party Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Almost 60% of the population lives in extreme poverty, with food shortages, frequently interrupted blackouts, and poor medical facilities.

Sweta Maity
Sweta Maity
Sweta is a final-year M.A. student in Mass Communication and Journalism. She graduated from Calcutta University with a B.A. in English honors. She grew up in a small town called Contai, West Bengal where she finished her schooling and moved to Kolkata for academic reasons. She is a creative, assertive, and outspoken individual who loves horror films and Rabindra Sangeet. In addition, she admires Sylvia Plath and Princess Diana as her role models.


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