North Korea confirms COVID-19 case for first time during pandemic

North Korea announced its first coronavirus infection on Thursday more than two years after the start of the pandemic, as leader Kim Jong-un called for raising preventive measures against COVID-19 to maximum levels.

Korea’s Central News Agency said on Thursday that tests carried out on an unknown number of people in the capital Pyongyang confirmed they were infected with a variant of Omicron. North Korea had previously claimed a perfect record in keeping out of COVID-19, a claim widely doubted by outside experts.

The agency said Kim called a meeting of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party Politburo, where members decided to increase his anti-virus measures.

Kim, at the meeting, called on officials to stabilize transmissions and eliminate the source of infection as soon as possible.

Despite the decision to raise anti-virus measures, Kim ordered officials to press ahead with planned construction, agricultural development and other state projects while strengthening the country’s defense postures to avoid a security vacuum.

Kim said officials should also formulate measures to mitigate public inconvenience and other negative situations that may erupt as a result of the tightened anti-pandemic measures. Kim said “resolute public unity is the strongest guarantee that can win in this fight against the pandemic,” KCNA said.

Most exchanges blocked during the pandemic

To prevent the virus from entering its territory, North Korea had closed its border to nearly all trade and visitors for two years, further shocking an economy already damaged by decades of mismanagement and crippling sanctions directed by the United States against its nuclear weapons and missile program.

In January, North Korea tentatively reopened rail freight traffic between its border city of Sinuiju and Dandong in China, but China announced a halt to trade last month as it faced a spread of COVID -19 in Dandong.

So far, North Korea has avoided vaccines offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program, possibly because these have international monitoring requirements.