North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered a strict lockdown after the first official public admission of Covid infections was announced, The NY Times reports.
The size of the Covid outbreak was not immediately known, but test samples collected on Sunday of this week from an unspecified number of people in the capital city Pyongyang confirmed that people were infected.
The tests came back showing the transmissible Omicron variant, which has become a dominant variant across a lot of the world.
North Korea previously claimed that it has a perfect record in keeping Covid outside of its borders. It is a claim that has been widely doubted by experts around the world.
The Covid outbreak has been called the “biggest emergency incident” in North Korea on state media. Kim ordered all cities and countries within North Korea to “strictly lock down” their regions.
The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that the state epidemic prevention work shall be switched over to the maximum emergency epidemic prevention system.
During a meeting of the ruling party Politburo, Kim said that “single-minded public unity” is the most powerful way to guarantee that the country can win against the pandemic.
The first public admission of Covid infections in North Korea highlights the potential for a major crisis in North Korea, which has refused to accept any international help with vaccinations and completely shut its borders.
The Covid outbreak could have serious consequences in North Korea because it has a poor healthcare system, and its population of 26 million people is believed to be mostly unvaccinated.
But some say that North Korea admitting an outbreak could mean that it may soon seek outside assistance and vaccinations.
So far, North Korea’s approach to keeping the virus out has been a very closed border, even extending to all trade and visitors for the past two years. This shocked its already damaged economy, which has been hurting due to U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile program.