North Korea confirmed its very first cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and declared a “serious emergency”, with leader Kim Jong Un wearing a mask for the first time and appearing on TV to order lockdowns across the country.
A couple of hours after the shock announcement — the first time the nuclear weapons nation admitted to being affected by COVID — South Korea’s military reported detecting three short-range ballistic missiles launched near Pyongyang.
The launch, one of over a dozen sanctions-busting weapons tests so far this year, comes shortly after the US cautioned that the Communist regime could test a bomb anytime, with satellite imagery suggesting new activity at nuclear sites.
Earlier Thursday, North Korea said it had adopted a “maximum system for the prevention of emergency outbreaks” after patients with fevers in Pyongyang tested positive for the Omicron BA.2 variant of COVID.
Kim, wearing a facemask on TV for the first time, chaired an emergency meeting of the politburo to discuss the epidemic and “called on all cities and counties throughout the country to completely lock down their areas”
Kim told the meeting that the aim was to ‘rapidly cure infections to eliminate the source of the spread of the virus, The official news agency KCNA reported, without specifying how many cases were reported.
With 25 million people not vaccinated against COVID-19, North Korea’s failing health infrastructure would have a tough time coping with a major outbreak, experts say.