(NewsGlobal.com)- North Korea has mobilized the military to respond to its first officially acknowledged outbreak of COVID-19.
On Thursday, all cities were placed on lockdown in what the state-run media described as a “major national emergency.” Between Saturday and Sunday, another 392,920 new cases of “fever” and eight deaths were recorded, though the media did not specify if COVID was the cause of death.
Thus far, North Korea has reported 1.2 million cases of COVID, with over 648,000 listed as recovered while another 50 have died. The accuracy of the numbers is in doubt, with most experts pointing out that it is unlikely a country of 25 million people could have been spared from the pandemic for more than two years.
However, given the country’s isolation from the world and the regime’s lack of openness, it is virtually impossible to accurately assess the situation on the ground.
On Sunday, during an emergency meeting of top officials in Pyongyang, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un criticized officials for not moving swiftly enough, noting that state-supplied medicines weren’t getting to pharmacies in time.
He blasted public health officials and his cabinet accusing them of “irresponsible work” and poor “organizing and executing.” He accused the director of the central public prosecutor’s office of “idleness” and neglecting his duty.
To correct the problems and delays, Kim ordered the medical arm of the military to immediately stabilize “the supply of medicines in Pyongyang City.”
After the meeting, Kim visited pharmacies in Pyongyang to highlight the short supply of medicine.
North Korean state TV aired footage over the weekend showing medical workers spraying empty streets. It interviewed a doctor who advised COVID patients to use paracetamol (Tylenol) and ibuprofen, as well as traditional Korean medicines made from various herbs.
It is not known if North Korea has imported any COVID vaccines despite being eligible for the Covax global COVID vaccine sharing program. Reuters reported in February that Covax scaled back on the number of doses allocated for North Korea because Pyongyang had failed to arrange for any shipments.