Kim Jong Un warns of 'grave incident' in North Korea's fight against COVID-19

World Wednesday 30/June/2021 16:15 PM
Kim Jong Un warns of 'grave incident' in North Korea's fight against COVID-19

Pyongyang: North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un has rebuked ruling party officials for failure in anti-epidemic work, which caused a 'huge crisis' in the country, according to the state media.

However, health experts said information was too sketchy to draw any immediate conclusions about whether the coronavirus had entered the country. "By neglecting important decisions of the party in its national emergency antivirus fight in preparations for a global health crisis, officials in charge have caused a grave incident that poses a huge crisis to the safety of the nation and its people," the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Kim as saying.

The North Korean leader had called a meeting of the Politburo of the ruling Workers' Party on Tuesday to address some officials' neglect of duty, including failing to implement important long-term measures to fight the pandemic, KCNA said. Several Politburo members, secretaries of the central committee, and officials of several state agencies were replaced at the meeting.

North Korea has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep COVID-19 at bay, closing its border with China to people and most goods shortly after the pandemic broke out last year, fearing that a serious outbreak could overwhelm the country's ailing healthcare system, Washington Post reported.

It has not announced any confirmed cases of COVID-19, a claim backed by the World Health Organization (WHO) but questioned by US and South Korean officials.

North Korea had closed its border shortly after the pandemic spread through China at the start of 2020. The step cut off its own economic lifeline, placed foreigners under effective house arrest and severely restricted domestic travel.

As a result, information about the pandemic has been extremely hard to come by, although unconfirmed reports of areas placed under lockdowns and quarantine last year fueled suspicion that some cases might have emerged.

Last July, North Korea did declare a state of emergency and locked down the border city of Kaesong after a former defector crossed back into the country from South Korea with suspected symptoms of COVID-19. However, the defector's tests were reported to have been inconclusive.

The border with China had even begun to open to trade again in recent months, before clamping shut again more recently.

Earlier this month, Kim warned that the country's food situation had become "tense," amid mounting reports of shortages, Washington Post reported.

He said the protracted emergency anti-coronavirus situation means a prolonged struggle to provide food, clothing and housing for the people.