Seoul, South Korea ( Associated Press) – North Korea on Thursday announced its first coronavirus infection in more than two years in the pandemic as leader Kim Jong Un called for COVID-19 preventive measures to be raised to maximum levels.
The Korean Central News Agency said tests of unspecified people in the capital Pyongyang confirmed they were infected with the Omicron variant. North Korea previously claimed a perfect record in keeping out COVID-19, a claim that was widely doubted by outside experts.
The agency said Kim convened a meeting of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party’s politburo, where members decided to step up its anti-virus measures. During the meeting, Kim called on officials to stabilize transmissions and eliminate the source of infection as soon as possible.
Despite the decision to step up anti-virus steps, Kim ordered officials to pursue scheduled construction, agricultural development and other state projects while bolstering the country’s defense postures to avoid any security vacuum.
Kim said officials should take steps to minimize any public inconvenience and other negative situations that could flare up as a result of the anti-epidemic measures. Kim said that “single-minded public unity is the most powerful guarantee one can win in this anti-pandemic fight,” KCNA said.
To prevent the virus from entering its territory, North Korea closed its border to almost all trade and visitors for two years, sparking decades of mismanagement and a US-led crackdown on its nuclear weapons and missile program. The sanctions dealt a further blow to an economy already damaged.
North Korea temporarily reopened rail freight traffic between its border city of Sinuiju and China’s Dandong in January, but China last month announced a halt to trade as it concerns the spread of COVID-19 in Dandong .
North Korea has so far abandoned vaccines offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program, possibly because they have international surveillance requirements.