North Korea reported an Omicron variant case in the capital city of Pyongyang on Thursday and ordered a countrywide lockdown amid the “gravest national emergency.”
Reuters reported that the infection is the first case of COVID-19 reported by the reclusive communist nation, which has no official record of its citizens being vaccinated.
“The state’s most serious emergency has occurred: A break emerged in our emergency epidemic prevention front that had been firmly defended until now,” state-sponsored North Korean news agency KCNA said, according to Reuters.
In a meeting with the Workers’ Party politburo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced a “strict lockdown” for the entire nation, as well as the use of emergency medical supply reserves. Likely wearing a mask in public for the first time, Kim emphasized that the nation will endure the outbreak because the government and people are “united as one,” the Associated Press reported.
“North Korea, which has maintained strict anti-virus controls at its borders for more than two years, didn’t provide further details about its new lockdown,” the AP continued. “But an Associated Press photographer on the South Korean side of the border saw dozens of people working in fields or walking on footpaths at a North Korean border town — an indication the lockdown doesn’t require people to stay home, or it exempts farm work.”
“The state epidemic prevention work shall be switched over to the maximum emergency epidemic prevention system,” KCNA continued, according to Reuters.
North Korea — which Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health ranked 193 out of 195 nations in pandemic preparedness ahead of COVID-19 — executed citizens in 2020 during a frantic attempt to stop virus spread.
Kim “executed two people, closed the country’s capital, and banned fishing at sea in a frantic attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers,” The New York Post reported in 2020. “The tyrant has been lashing out with ‘excessive anger’ and taking ‘irrational measures’ in recent weeks as a result of the pandemic, said one of the officials, Ha Tae-keung, who was briefed by National Intelligence Service.”
Likewise, Tim Peters — who runs a Christian nonprofit called Helping Hands Korea based in Seoul, South Korea — told the South China Morning Post that North Korea started “quarantine camps” near its Chinese border.
“One of the more alarming pieces of information that has come our way is that the DPRK government is providing absolutely minimal or no food or medicine to those who are interred there,” Peters said. “So, it’s up to the families of the quarantined citizens to come to the edge of the camps and bring food to keep quarantined relatives alive along with whatever health-related aids that they can muster, whether it be purchased medicines sold in the jangmadang markets, or even herbal home remedies gathered from mountainsides.”
“My sources indicate many in these camps have already died, not only from the pandemic but also from starvation and related causes,” he continued.
The Kim regime apologized in September 2020 for the killing of a South Korean government official who, after he was killed, had oil thrown on his body and was burned over fears that he might have COVID-19.