(Seoul) The first case of COVID-19 infection since the start of the pandemic has been reported in North Korea, state media said Thursday, calling it a “serious national emergency.”

This first case, detected during tests carried out on Sunday in Pyongyang on sick and feverish people, “corresponds” to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the official KCNA news agency said.

The country’s leader Kim Jong-un announced the establishment of an “extreme emergency” virus control system after a politburo crisis meeting.

“The goal was to eliminate the root as soon as possible,” said the leader quoted by the state agency KCNA. “He assured us that due to the strong political consciousness of the people…we will surely overcome the emergency and succeed with the emergency quarantine project,” the news agency said.

Kim Jong-un called for stricter border control as well as containment measures, asking residents to “completely prevent the spread of the malicious virus by completely locking down their neighborhoods in all cities and counties across the country,” according to KCNA.

All productive and commercial activities will be organized so that each work unit is “isolated” to prevent the spread of the virus, he added.

The country completely closed its borders from the start of the pandemic in 2020, at the expense of its economy.

Pyongyang had not announced any confirmed cases of COVID-19 until Thursday.

According to the World Health Organization, North Korea conducted 13,259 COVID-19 tests in 2020, all of which came back negative.

Observers believe that the country’s very weak health system would have struggled to overcome a major epidemic.



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