After two years of dealing with much of the world, North Korea is finally facing an inevitable explosion in the number of Covid-19 cases. Leader Kim Jong Un criticized his country’s health authorities on Monday (May 16) for their handling of the epidemic that has killed at least 50 people since its official appearance in the country, and ordered the military to mobilize.
A sign of the seriousness of the situation, the leader of North Korea “He strongly criticized the government and the public health sector for their irresponsible attitude”, the official news agency KCNA reported. During the Politburo meeting, he privately complained about the fact that pharmacies were not open 24 hours a day. Pharmaceutical supply officials “They did not roll up their sleeves and properly assess the current crisis”he said, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
Army ordered to go to work “To achieve immediate stabilization of medicine supplies in Pyongyang”Last week, the first cases of Covid-19 in North Korea were officially revealed. Kim Jong-un has taken personal measures in the fight against the epidemic, which he says is causing ‘big turmoil’ In the state, whose population is not vaccinated.
The leader is overseeing almost daily emergency Politburo meetings, and North Korean media released photos of him visiting a pharmacy in Pyongyang on Sunday. Despite the widespread confinement, 1,213,550 people have been infected, 50 people have died, and 564,860 are undergoing medical treatment, according to the Korean Central News Agency, which does not explicitly refer to Covid-19, but talks about “fever”.
North Korea’s healthcare system ranks 193And Among the 195 countries, according to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University last year. The state’s hospitals are poorly equipped, with few intensive care units. According to experts, the country has no cure for Covid-19 and does not have the capacity to test its population on a large scale.
North Korea has cut itself off from the world for more than two years to protect itself from the pandemic. But experts considered it inevitable that the virus would eventually infiltrate the country, given the outbreak of the epidemic due to the Omicron variant in neighboring countries.
The fact that Kim Jong-un publicly discredits his government reflects ‘Feeling in crisis’ Whoever took power, said Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. ‘Puts his finger on the general shortcomings of the quarantine system’says this analyst.
Zero Covid strategy
According to the Korean Central News Agency, the North Korean leader expressed his intention to draw inspiration from China’s strategy to combat the epidemic. China is one of the last countries in the world to practice a “zero Covid” policy, which consists of counting entire cities as soon as the slightest case appears, and systematically tracing and isolating patients.
US President Joe Biden is expected to arrive in Seoul this weekend to meet his new South Korean counterpart, Yoon Seok-yeol. Pyongyang’s weapons programs and the COVID-19 outbreak are likely to be high on the agenda of this summit.
Despite the health crisis, new satellite images indicate that North Korea has resumed construction of a long-stall nuclear reactor. Washington and Seoul suspect Pyongyang is preparing for a nuclear test, which will be its seventh in its history and the first since 2017.
In this context, accepting South Korea’s help against Covid-19 would harm the North Korean regime’s ego and force it to refrain from conducting this nuclear test, explains Cheong Seong-jang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute. “If Kim Jong-un is determined to take a test, he will not accept help from South Korea”he thinks.