Moneycontrol PRO
Open App
you are here: HomeNewsTrendsHealth

North Korea Says Its COVID-19 Outbreak Is Over

Kim, speaking at a meeting with national health officials, said his government would downgrade its anti-disease vigilance to an “ordinary” level as of Friday

August 11, 2022 / 04:32 PM IST
Representative image (Image: AP)

Representative image (Image: AP)

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, said the country had brought its coronavirus outbreak to an end without vaccines, state media reported Thursday, while Kim’s sister accused South Korea of sending the virus across the border and threatened​ “deadly”​ retaliation​.

After two years of claiming to have no COVID-19 cases, North Korea reported an outbreak in May, announcing a “maximum emergency” and locking down all of its cities and counties. On Wednesday, Kim ​“solemnly declared the victory​” in “exterminating the novel coronavirus that had made inroads into our territory​,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported. ​

Kim, speaking at a meeting with national health officials, said his government would downgrade its anti-disease vigilance to an “ordinary” level as of Friday, according to the report.

​Outside experts have cast doubt on the North’s ​COVID-related claims, including its past assertions that it had no cases. The figures it has released since May have also been viewed with skepticism, in part because the isolated, impoverished country does not have enough testing kits or laboratories to accurately track a major outbreak.​

According to the Thursday report, Kim said all the COVID patients identified by his government had been diagnosed with ​the omicron subvariant BA.2. Though North Korea has reported 4.7 million cases of people developing a high fever during the outbreak,​ it has never said how many were confirmed COVID-19 infections.


COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

View more
How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

View more

The North, which has a population of about 26 million, has reported just 74 deaths during the outbreak. Even those deaths were officially attributed to a “malignant pandemic disease​” or a “malignant virus,” not explicitly to COVID.

South Korean intelligence officials have told lawmakers that some of the North Koreans with fever symptoms may have had diseases like whooping cough, measles or typhoid.

North Korea​ said its outbreak began in late April​. Its​ daily reported caseload of ​people with fevers peaked at 390,000, on May 16. In recent weeks, that figure fell below 100,000, and ​the government began saying that it had brought the outbreak under control.​ It has reported no new cases since July 29.

At the Wednesday meeting with Kim, North Korean officials said it was “a miracle unprecedented in the world’s public health history​” that the North had quashed the outbreak so quickly despite never having vaccinated its people, according to the state media report.

Last month, the North suggested that the coronavirus had entered the country on foreign objects from South Korea, saying that its outbreak had begun in villages near the countries’ heavily militarized border.​ While not directly blaming the South​, its statement suggested that the objects had been brought in by balloons, which North Korean defectors living in the South often use to send anti-Kim propaganda leaflets, dollar bills and other items across the border.

Kim Yo Jong, Kim’s sister, took a far more accusatory tone during the Wednesday meeting, blaming “disgusting ones in ​South Korea​” for causing the outbreak by scattering “leaflets, bank notes, awful booklets and things over our territory,” according to the state media report.

“​We have already considered various counteraction plans but our countermeasure must be a deadly retaliatory one​,” Kim Yo Jong, who acts as her brother’s spokesperson on South Korean issues, was quoted as saying.

She also suggested that Kim may have had COVID, saying that he had led the national campaign against the virus despite having a “high fever.”

South Korea ​has ​said that it is impossible for the balloon launches to have brought COVID-19 into the North, saying it had consulted disease-control experts on the issue. O​n Thursday, the South Korean government called Kim Yo Jong’s accusation “far-fetched” and “very rude.”

(Author: Choe Sang-Hun)/(c.2021 The New York Times Company)
New York Times
first published: Aug 11, 2022 04:32 pm
ISO 27001 - BSI Assurance Mark