After two years without an (official) infection, North Korea announced its first death from Covid-19 on Friday, adding that the virus has already spread across the country. A country where vaccination against the coronavirus is non-existent. It lasted nearly two and a half years. Yet reclusive, North Korea announced, Friday, May 13, its first death from Covid-19, specifying that the virus had already spread throughout the country and that tens of thousands of people were “isolated and treated” The day before, the country had reported its first cases of coronavirus, declaring to switch to a regime of “maximum emergency prevention of epidemics”, after people had tested positive for the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron. The official KCNA news agency reported that the leader, Kim Jong Un, visited the National Epidemic Prevention Headquarters where he “learned about the spread of Covid-19 throughout the country”. happened in North Korea during the long months when the whole planet was confronted with the pandemic? France 24 takes stock of the situation in this country where the information, locked, makes it difficult to know the reality. Closure of bordersThe first waves of Covid-19 were avoided by Pyongyang – yet neighboring China, the center of the pandemic – thanks to the rapid decision to close the borders. As of January 1, 2020, North Korea is more closed than ever on itself, expels foreign nationals and prohibits any arrival on its soil. First scare on July 26, six months after the start of the pandemic. North Korea reports first “suspected” case of Covid-19. The country then orders the confinement of the city of Kaesong where this case was detected. Located just seven kilometers from the border with South Korea, the city is placed in a state of “maximum emergency” to stem the scourge. The case concerned a person “who returned on July 19 after illegally crossing the demarcation line” which serves as a border with South Korea, the official KCNA agency announced at the time. It was to date the only suspected case in North Korea of which the rest of the world has been aware. The country had so far confirmed no cases of Covid-19 to the WHO – Pyongyang having always maintained that the Covid-19 pandemic had not arrived on its soil, information questioned by many experts. Sure of its ability to keep the virus out of its territory, the country did not vaccinate its 25 million inhabitants. Last September, North Korea refused some three million doses of Chinese vaccine against Covid-19, and two million doses of AstraZeneca distributed by Unicef under the Covax program for access to the vaccine in the poor countries. The North Korean regime, whose health system is notoriously weak, then proposed that these doses be offered to countries in greater need. In July, a South Korean think tank affiliated with the spy agency of the The country had claimed that Pyongyang rejected AstraZeneca vaccines offered through Covax, citing in particular concerns about potential side effects. With 20 Minutes, the historian Juliette Morillot, author of “North Korea in 100 questions” and “South Korea in 100 questions” (Tallandier editions), evokes as for her “the fear that accepting foreign aid is seen as a weakness” by the population. However, a weakness has just been admitted by North Korea which, on Thursday, reported the death of several people who were victims of “fever”, including one who tested positive for the BA sub-variant .2 of Omicron. “More than 350,000 people presented with fever in a short time and at least 162,200 of them are completely cured”, detailed the same source. “As of May 12 alone”, some 18,000 people showed symptoms across the country and “187,800 people are isolated and treated”, according to the same source. Kim Jong Un, who appeared for the first time on television wearing a mask, presided over an emergency meeting of the political bureau on the epidemic situation. He ordered containment measures to try to stem the spread of the virus. “This is the most important challenge and the most important task facing our party to quickly reverse this health crisis situation,” stressed KCNA. A World Health Organization representative for North Korea said on Friday that the WHO assisted Pyongyang in developing a vaccination plan earlier this year. In South Korea, the new administration of President Yoon Suk-yeol has offered to send vaccines to the North, specifying however that it has not yet discussed it with its neighbor. Towards a major health crisis? According to several analysts, the virus may have already spread across the country, particularly during major events in April in the North Korean capital. On April 25, during the parade organized on the occasion of the “Day of the Sun”, neither the participants nor the spectators wore masks. “The organization of a military parade attended by a large crowd, while Omicron was raging in neighboring China, shows that Pyongyang was overconfident in its ability to fight and prevent the virus,” Cheong Seong-chang, North Korea specialist at the Sejong Institute, told AFP. , the country could face a major health crisis due to the highly transmissible nature of Omicron, recalling that Pyongyang had reported nearly 20,000 cases in a single day. “If the death toll from Omicron skyrockets, Pyongyang may need to seek support from China,” he added. On Friday, Kim Jong Un “said the top priority was to prevent the spread of the virus by actively locking down areas and isolating and treating people with fever responsibly,” KCNA reported. With AFP
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