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 the COVID-19 virus had been detected in the state capital Pyongyang.
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.
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.
The newly elected President of South Korea Yoon Suk-yeol has expressed his thoughts and assured him 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 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.