North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared a “brilliant victory” over COVID-19 as his sister revealed the dictator had fallen ill during the outbreak, which he blamed on Seoul, state media reported on Thursday.
Addressing a gathering of health workers and scientists, Kim announced a “victory … in the war against the malignant pandemic disease,” according to the Korean Central News Agency.
Kim Jong-un “suffered from a high fever during the days of this anti-epidemic war, but he couldn’t lie down for a moment as he thought about the people he was responsible for.””, his powerful sister Kim Yo-jong said at the meeting, while officials in the audience weptshowed a transmission of KCTV.
The isolated nation, which has maintained a tight lockdown since the start of the pandemic, confirmed an Omicron outbreak in the capital Pyongyang in May and activated a “maximum emergency epidemic prevention system.”
North Korea refers to “fever patients” instead of “COVID patients” in case reportsapparently due to lack of parsing ability.
This is the first time that North Korea has indicated that its leader – whose health is the subject of extraordinary scrutiny by analysts – has been infected by the coronavirus.
The KCTV had never broadcast a speech by “first sister” Kim Yo-jong, who delivered an impassioned speech, according to the broadcast. As she discussed her brother’s health, the camera showed uniformed officials in the audience wiping away tears or openly crying.
Also claimed that the COVID outbreak in the country was caused by South Korea, warning of “retaliation”.
North Korea has previously said “strange things” near the border with the South caused the isolated country’s COVID outbreak, a claim Seoul has rejected.
Despite the ban that took effect in 2021, South Korean activists have for years flown over the border with balloons containing propaganda leaflets and US dollars, something Pyongyang has long protested against.
Kim Yo-jong said such actions were a “crime against humanity” and that Pyongyang was considering “a strong retaliatory response.”
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Thursday that North Korea was repeating an “unfounded claim” and lamented Pyongyang’s “rude and threatening remarks.”
North Korea has recorded nearly 4.8 million “fever” infections and just 74 deaths for an official death rate of 0.002%, according to state media. Since July 29, no new cases have been registered..
This management of the pandemic “is an unprecedented miracle in the history of global public health”Kim said to thunderous applause, according to KCNA. “The victory obtained by our people is a historic event.”
Analysts said the victory declaration indicated North Korea was looking to move on to other priorities “such as boosting the economy or conducting a nuclear test,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“Kim Yo-jong’s bellicose rhetoric is worrying because he will not only try to blame any resurgence of COVID on South Korea, but also seeks to justify North Korea’s next military provocation.”, he added.
Experts, including the World Health Organization, have long questioned Pyongyang’s COVID statistics and its claims to have brought the outbreak under control.
The country has one of the worst healthcare systems in the worldwith poorly equipped hospitals, few intensive care units and no drugs to treat COVID, according to experts.
It is believed that has not vaccinated any of its 25 million inhabitantsalthough it may have received some vaccines from China, as reported by the specialized site NK News, based in Seoul.
South Korea, with its advanced healthcare and highly vaccinated population, has a coronavirus mortality rate of 0.12%, according to official data, significantly higher than that recorded in the North.
(With information from AFP)
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