North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday declared a “shining victory” over Covid-19, after officials reported no new cases of the virus for nearly two weeks.

Presiding over a meeting with health workers and scientists, Kim announced a “victory … in the war against the malignant pandemic disease,” according to the government news agency KCNA.

The isolated country, which has maintained a rigid coronavirus blockade since the start of the pandemic, announced an Omicron outbreak in the capital Pyongyang in May and activated a “maximum emergency epidemic prevention system”.

North Korea refers to “fever patients” rather than “Covid patients” in case reports, apparently due to a lack of testing capacity.

Since July 29, Pyongyang has been reporting new no cases of the virus. According to KCNA, Kim said “the victory gained by our people is a historic event that once again showed the world what the greatness of our state, the indomitable tenacity of our people and the beautiful national customs we are proud of”.

At the end of Kim’s speech, “the participants raised thunderous cheers of ‘Hurrah!’ repeatedly, recollecting in tears the great exploits and devoted service for the people he has made to bring about a shining victory to be etched in history”.

Kim also held a photo session with the attendees and senior officials, which filled them “with great excitement and joy”.

North Korea has recorded nearly 4.8 million infections since late April, with just 74 deaths for an official fatality rate of 0.002 per cent, according to KCNA.

The country has one of the world’s worst healthcare systems, with poorly equipped hospitals, few intensive care units, and no Covid-19 treatment drugs or vaccines, experts say.

In contrast, South Korea — with its advanced healthcare systems and highly vaccinated population — has a reported Covid fatality rate of 0.12 per cent, according to official data.

On Thursday, Kim Jong Un’s sister, Yo Jong, blamed South Korea for the country’s Covid outbreak, saying they were a “crime against humanity” and warned of “retaliation”, the official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

Despite a ban that took effect in 2021, South Korean activists have for years flown balloons containing propaganda leaflets and US dollars over the border, which Pyongyang has long protested against.

She said that many countries — and the World Health Organisation — have acknowledged “the danger of spreading an infectious disease through contacting contaminated objects”, according to the report.

“It is very worrisome that South Korea is sending leaflets, money, sloppy brochures and items into our region,” she said.

Yo Jong warned that Pyongyang was considering “a strong retaliatory response”, adding that if the balloons continued, “we will respond by eradicating not only the virus, but also the South Korean authorities”.




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