Corona chaos in North Korea – from patient 0 to 350,000 in just 24 hours – politics abroad

Kim’s nightmare comes true: Corona hits his country!

No Covid-19 cases were reported for two years, but now North Korea has officially acknowledged a death in the country after contracting the virus for the first time.

Six people have died since the end of April – with a fever that, for reasons that are still unclear, has spread explosively across the country, Kim Jong-un’s propaganda media reported on Friday. The population is encouraged to rinse their mouths with salt water and drink milk.

“More than 350,000 people got fever in a short time,” it says. The omicron subvariant BA.2 was said to have been detected in one of the fatalities.

Only the day before, the isolated country had officially confirmed infections with the pathogen for the first time since the beginning of the corona pandemic more than two years ago.

“When Kim Jong-un personally admits a corona outbreak to the public, it becomes clear that it is a serious situation for North Korea, since the country already has a catastrophic health system and has no testing and vaccination capacities. Economically, too, the country is on the ground because of the sanctions and the self-imposed corona isolation,” explains Korea expert Hartmut Koschyk to BILD.

Photo: Cha Song Ho / dpa

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Pyongyang: A teacher measures the body temperature of a studentPhoto: Cha Song Ho / dpa

“Massive Eruption”

South Korea is now assuming a “massive outbreak of Covid-19” in the neighboring country. The Seoul government offered support. President Yoon Suk-yeol wants to deliver vaccines against the disease to North Korea, his office in Seoul said.

A corresponding offer should be sent via the Ministry of Unification. North Korea itself has not yet asked for help, the South Korean news agency Yonhap quoted a government official as saying.

According to North Korean reports, over 162,000 people had completely recovered from the sudden onset of fever. However, almost 188,000 patients in quarantine would still be treated. However, it was initially unclear how many were actually infected with the corona virus.

<img class="photo ondemand zoomable" src="https://bilder.bild.de/fotos-skaliert/ein-lebensmittelladen-wird-desinfiziert-75657c869e234d86a98412562d7b29ca-80080332/7,w=1280,c=0.bild.jpg" width="1280" alt="Ein Lebensmittelladen wird desinfiziert" data-zoom-title="Ein Lebensmittelladen wird desinfiziert

Photo: Jon Chol Jin / dpa

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A grocery store is being disinfectedPhoto: Jon Chol Jin / dpa

“The State’s Most Serious Emergency”

According to observers, the numbers indicated the potential extent of the corona outbreak in the country. Experts had long warned that North Korea would find it difficult to deal with a major outbreak due to its inadequate health system. North Korea itself spoke of the “most serious emergency of the state”.

“What doesn’t fit the situation is that North Korea has just resumed missile testing and is flexing its ‘military muscles.’ At his inauguration this week, South Korea’s new president made it clear that he was willing to engage in dialogue and support North Korea, but pushed for the country’s complete denuclearization,” explains Koschyk.

The state media reported that Corona had now spread throughout the country. Dictator Kim Jong-un was informed about this during a visit to the epidemic prevention center in Pyongyang, it said.

“There have been various offers of vaccines from outside, but North Korea has all rejected them. The import of two million doses as part of the WHO’s Covax campaign failed because of the transparency requirement – who gets the vaccination and who doesn’t – and the logistics, for example because of cooling options. And besides, foreigners should have been allowed into the country,” says Dr. Christian Taaks from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Seoul on BILD.

<img class="photo ondemand zoomable" src="https://bilder.bild.de/fotos-skaliert/die-corona-pandemie-trifft-auf-ein-land-welches-noch-nicht-mal-testkapazitaeten-entgegnen-kann-8b57e6fef31d4b14ada575ad5a25a52a-80080338/7,w=1280,c=0.bild.jpg" width="1280" alt="Die Corona-Pandemie trifft auf ein Land, welches noch nicht mal Testkapazitäten entgegnen kann" data-zoom-title="Die Corona-Pandemie trifft auf ein Land, welches noch nicht einmal Testkapazitäten aufweisen kann

Photo: Cha Song Ho / dpa

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The corona pandemic hits a country that does not even have test capacitiesPhoto: Cha Song Ho / dpa

Kim has everything locked down

Kim had ordered a nationwide lockdown on Thursday. All cities and counties should be in strict lockdown. How people are cared for during a curfew was considered unclear.

According to UN organizations, large parts of the population in the country with its almost 26 million inhabitants are undernourished or malnourished.

“It is to be feared that the already problematic supply of large parts of the population will become even more difficult. The impact on the economy is likely to be drastic. The further developments are hardly foreseeable, but the highest alert level is definitely in place now,” says Taaks.

<img class="photo ondemand zoomable" src="https://bilder.bild.de/fotos-skaliert/war-sehr-wahrscheinlich-ein-superspreader-event-kims-militaerparade-vor-zwei-wochen-84e63a3183e7433686fc7d48c7278557-80080342/7,w=1280,c=0.bild.jpg" width="1280" alt="War sehr wahrscheinlich ein Superspreader-Event: Kim's Militärparade vor zwei Wochen" data-zoom-title="War sehr wahrscheinlich ein Superspreader-Event: Kims Militärparade vor zwei Wochen

Photo: KCNA / via REUTERS

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Was very likely a superspreader event: Kim’s military parade two weeks agoPhoto: KCNA / via REUTERS

During a visit to the state epidemic prevention center, the dictator complained that there was a “vulnerable point” in the existing emergency prevention system, the state media reported.

Kim was quoted as saying that every work and production facility as well as all living units would have to be isolated from one another. He said he was confident that the relevant authorities would be able to “wipe out the sources of the spread of the malicious epidemic”.

<img class="photo ondemand zoomable" src="https://bilder.bild.de/fotos-skaliert/dafuer-ist-geld-da-schwerste-waffen–aber-nicht-fuer-eine-medizinische-grundversorgung-23d7fb3331a74776b477e1be37de91d6-80080832/7,w=1280,c=0.bild.jpg" width="1280" alt="Dafür ist Geld da: schwerste Waffen – aber nicht für eine medizinische Grundversorgung" data-zoom-title="Für schwerste Waffen ist Geld da – aber nicht für eine medizinische Grundversorgung

Photo: KCNA / via REUTERS

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There is money for the heaviest weapons – but not for basic medical carePhoto: KCNA / via REUTERS

Big rockets, but no medical infrastructure for the population: “Practically everything is missing and strategies now have to be developed and implemented that other countries had more than two years to develop. There is not even a test capacity that would provide information about the number of infections, let alone an adequate number of hospital beds, medical devices and medicines,” explains Taaks.

The communist leadership had closed the national borders early on because of the pandemic. As of Thursday, North Korea was one of the few countries that had not reported a single case of infection to the World Health Organization. Abroad, North Korea’s claims that it was corona-free were questioned. The virus is believed to have entered the country via neighboring China and black market activities.


Map / Factsheet Nordkorea - Infographics

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