North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered officials to make tougher pandemic prevention efforts after he refused a donation of a COVID-19 vaccine offered through a UN-backed immunization program.
State news agency KCNA reported Friday at a Politburo meeting the day before that Kim said officials should “remember that tightening epidemic prevention is the most important task that should not be relaxed even for a moment.”
While stressing the need for material and technical means for virus prevention and improving the qualifications of health workers, Kim also called for perfecting the country’s style epidemic prevention system, KCNA said.
Kim earlier called on North Koreans to prepare for prolonged COVID-19 restrictions, indicating that the country’s borders will remain closed despite deteriorating economic and food conditions.
Since the start of the pandemic, North Korea has imposed strict quarantines and border closures to prevent an outbreak, although its claims that the country is coronavirus-free are widely doubted.
On Tuesday, UNICEF, which collects and ships the vaccine on behalf of the COVAX distribution program, said North Korea proposed that rations of some three million Chinese-made Sinovac injections be sent to countries where they need them most.
North Korea was also scheduled to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine via COVAX, but deliveries have been delayed.
According to UNICEF, North Korea’s health ministry said it would continue to communicate with COVAX about future vaccines. [ab/uh]