The Korean Central News Agency said tests from an unspecified number of people in the capital Pyongyang confirmed they were infected with the omicron variant. North Korea had previously claimed a perfect record in keeping out COVID-19, a claim widely doubted by outside experts.
The agency said Kim called a meeting of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party’s Politburo where members decided to raise its anti-virus measures.
Kim during the meeting called for officials to stabilise transmissions and eliminate the infection source as fast as possible.
The state media said: “There has been the biggest emergency incident in the country, with a hole in our emergency quarantine front, that has been kept safely over the past two years and three months since February 2020.”
The report said people in Pyongyang contracted the Omicron variant, without providing details on case numbers or possible sources of infection.
The report was published as the North Korean ruler, Kim Jong-un, chaired a Workers’ party meeting to discuss responses to the first outbreak of the coronavirus.
During the meeting, Kim reportedly called for officials to stabilise transmissions and eliminate the infection source as fast as possible.
North Korea had closed its border to nearly all trade and visitors for two years, a further shock to an economy already damaged by decades of mismanagement and crippling US-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile program.
An extreme Covid policy has been in place from the start of the pandemic to stop the spread of the virus through the country.
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It has been claimed that the limited health facilities in the country, and its isolated global position politically, has made Kim Jung-un worried that Covid could have a devastating impact.
Lecturer at Harvard Medical School Kee Park, who has worked in North Korea previously, said that while the country has proved successful in holding back the virus, it was not sustainable.
He told the Financial Times: “A prolonged lockdown will lead to increased excess deaths — caused by poor nutrition, food shortages, increasing poverty, degradation of health systems and the loss of humanitarian aid — that will eventually exceed the number of deaths caused by the virus itself.”
North Korea in January tentatively reopened railroad freight traffic between its border town of Sinuiju and China’s Dandong, but China announced a halt to the trade last month as it deals with a spread of Covid in Dandong.
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