The communist state run by ruthless leader Kim Jong-un recently reported its first official case of COVID-19 this week following a brutal lockdown during the pandemic. However, the new unknown wave of illness sweeping across the nation has only resulted in one positive test for Covid sparking fears of a new illness.
According to state media, some 187,000 people were being “isolated and treated” for the sickness which includes a fever as one of its symptoms.
Reports have emerged of an outbreak of the Omicron strain of the Covid virus in Pyongyang, however, numbers have not been able to be verified.
So far, the alienated state has only admitted to one death since the start of the global pandemic.
In an update on Friday, KCNA said: “A fever whose cause couldn’t be identified spread explosively nationwide from late April.”
Some medical experts suggest the virus has been present in North Korea for time and could be responsible for the “new fever” being witnessed in the country.
KCNA’s report hinted cases were spreading widely outside Pyongyang, saying Kim Jong-un had visited a healthcare centre and ‘learned about the nationwide spread of Covid-19’.
The agency labelled the situation as an “immediate public health crisis.”
Many now fear the impact of a virus on the 25 million-strong population of the country will have a detrimental effect.
With North Korea already suffering from extreme poverty, lack of health care facilities and no vaccines, the consequences could be disastrous.
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Mr Kim has long championed his policy of blocking off the country during the start of the pandemic, in particular as it borders China, with whom cross-border trade had been vital prior to the outbreak.
Both London and Beijing offered Pyongyang millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines in an attempt to improve the chances of stopping the virus from spreading.
However, the offer was rejected by Mr Kim and his advisors.
But doubts were expressed over whether travel was fully banned, as the country’s fragile economy relies heavily on trade with China as well as a few other partners including Russia and India.
Investigations have also pointed toward the North Korean officials’ involvement in the illicit international drug and arms trafficking, requiring steady shipments in and out of the country.
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Speculation is now emerging as to how the new virus spread so fast.
Some say a super-spreader event could be responsible, with a recent military parade showing off North Korea’s latest weaponry could be key.
An analyst at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, Cheong Seong-Chang, said the pace of the fever’s spread suggests the crisis could last months and possibly into 2023, causing major disruption in the poorly equipped country.
He said: “North Korea was overconfident of its quarantine capabilities to hold such a large military parade with crowds in attendance while Omicron raged in neighbouring China.”
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Tens of thousands of maskless people participated in the parade, held to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army.
Other experts suggest the rare announcement of the outbreak may signal a willingness to receive outside aid.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Thursday Beijing was offering North Korea help in dealing with the outbreak.
South Korea has also offered to help out with vaccines and various medical supplies.