Image Source: ABC
North Korea is putting its entire country under a ‘strict national lockdown’ after authorities announced the first confirmed case of Covid.
The official number of reported cases from North Korea’s Omicron outbreak is still being withheld. However, authorities have been on high alert since the outbreak was discovered in the nation’s capital, Pyongyang.
Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, addressed his fellow citizens on Thursday and assured them that their safety was a top priority. He was seen wearing a face mask — believed to be the first time he did so on state television.
Up until now, North Korea has been refusing offers from other countries for vaccination. This decision might have risked the nation’s 25 million citizens into a deadly virus that can be prevented by vaccines such as AstraZeneca or Sinovac shots offered to them months ago. However, the offers were summarily rejected by the North Korean government and instead, they only opted for nationwide border lockdowns.
Today, the people of North Korea and their government is unprepared for this development. With no vaccinations, many people are bound to experience adverse health issues if the number of affected individuals increases.
North Korea has put down stricter lockdown measures on its citizens in response to Mr. Kim’s televised speech. The country is putting “maximum emergency” measures into effect, including virus control and other arrangements made by authorities per orders from their leader, who earlier promised that they would eradicate the virus soon.
The South Korean government renewed its offer of medical assistance after the announcement was made public by the North Korean state media. However, no reply has been received from Pyongyang yet.
North Korea’s healthcare system is complicated, and millions of its citizens don’t have access to vaccinations. This leaves North Korea at an increased risk for disease outbreaks because they cannot adequately protect their population from potential illnesses like Covid.
North Korea might lessen its nuclear activities following the development. A professor at Ewha University, Leif-Eric Easley, says that this possible recline could be attributed to “the urgency involving coronavirus rather than a foreign military.”
Amid dissenting analysis regarding the country’s priority, North Korea reportedly fired three short-range missiles at the Sea of Japan — on the same day as the announcement of an outbreak. The report received several opinions from analysts and experts.
Like Easley, University of North Korean Studies professor Yong Moo-jin says North Korea could lessen its nuclear activities to curb the spread of disease. However, it is possible that when things escalate, and there is widespread fear among North Koreans, Mr. Kim may resume testing for missiles to ‘distract’ people from the looming disaster.
Despite claims from government officials reporting that they successfully counter the spread of Covid, reports tell otherwise. In June last year, some officials were punished for “Covid-related issues.” In September, lines of military personnel were seen wearing hazmat suits and face masks.
In 2020, North Korea was one of the few countries that immediately closed its borders after Covid started spreading. Mr. Kim ordered a nationwide lockdown, and while this presented a solution to stop local spreading, it barred products from entering the country, leading to food shortages.
Now, the people of North Korea are facing a threat that endangers lives — the world is watching and is willing to help if the North Korean government allows it.
Opinions expressed by CEO Weekly contributors are their own.