On Wednesday, North Korea reported its first official case of COVID-19, which led to a nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the virus.
North Korea has long touted its success in having no cases of COVID reported during the years-long worldwide pandemic. However, that perfect record of avoiding the virus came to an end this week when leader Kim Jong Un announced on state television that the nation had confirmed its first case.
According to NK News, North Korea entered a COVID lockdown Thursday to curb a potential outbreak that could impact the country.
North Korea has rejected any vaccine program, even when offered a supply by other countries. Experts have said the nation’s population of 25 million is vulnerable due to the lack of a COVID-19 vaccine program. The government rejected offers from the international community to supply millions of AstraZeneca and Chinese-made Sinovac jabs last year.
Instead, it sealed its borders and had no recorded cases of the virus, despite experts believing the virus has long been present.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that samples collected Sunday in the capital, Pyongyang, confirmed there were infections of the Omicron variant.
Kim called for a complete lockdown of the nation and said workplaces should be isolated by units to block the virus from spreading. The leader urged health workers to increase disinfection efforts at workplaces and in homes.
Kim said this response was essential in order to control transmissions and eliminate the infection source quickly. He insisted the country would curb the outbreak because its government and people are “united as one.”
Kim ordered leaders to continue with scheduled construction, agricultural development, and other state projects despite the reported outbreak.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said South Korea is willing to provide medical assistance to North Korea based on humanitarian considerations. Relations between the two nations have been strained since 2019 due to a deadlock in nuclear negotiations and the North’s increasingly inflammatory weapons tests.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Beijing is offering North Korea help to deal with the outbreak.