Thursday 12 May: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks for the first time with a bandage on national television. And with a completely new and fresh message to the country’s 26 million inhabitants:
– Now the first case of coronavirus infection has been registered in North Korea.
Later the same Thursday: Suspicion that some 10,000 residents are infected, state health institutions report.
Friday, May 13: Six people have died from coronavirus. 187,000 are infected, reports the state news agency KCNA.
Later the same Friday: The number of infections doubled to approx. 350,000 people. Plans for restrictions for residents of the capital Pyongyang, reports the same news agency.
– Worst since 1948
Saturday 14 May: “The spread of the malignant epidemic is the worst chaos that has fallen on our country since its inception,” Kim said in a statement issued by the KCNA news agency and quoted in North Korean media, according to BBC.
North Korea was officially established in 1948.
State media now reports – two days after Kim’s report on the very first case of infection – that 27 people have died of “fever” in the two weeks since April.
The type of infection or virus that caused the fatal fever is not defined except in one of the deaths. There was a confirmed case of covid-19 in Pyongyang.
Later Saturday, several media outlets in North Korea reported around 500,000 cases of “unidentified fever” in recent weeks.
The country has limited test capacity, and therefore the cause of most cases of fever has not been determined.
Until two days ago, leader Kim boasted to his own people and the rest of the world that North Korea was without corona infection. The recipe has been closed borders with neighboring countries South Korea and China.
Now the self-praise has suddenly turned to biting criticism from the nation’s own administration and professionals.
“The crisis is due to bureaucratic and medical incompetence,” Kim said in Saturday’s statement on the accelerating corona situation in the country, according to the BBC.
He points to the “sin of omission” for not having learned the lessons from how other countries have handled the pandemic, such as neighboring China.
The BBC’s correspondent in Asia comments that food and medicine shortages may be a bigger problem in North Korea than the virus itself.
No to vaccines
While other countries struggled with the pandemic at worst, Kim and North Korea thanked for offers of vaccines from AstraZeneca and from China and humanitarian aid from several countries.
Now South Korea has offered help without any clear yes or no.
And there has been no detailed plan for restrictions or closure of the capital Pyongyang with over three million inhabitants.
The restrictions prevent people from traveling between cities and regions, but according to descriptions in the state media, people are not asked to isolate themselves at home.
Analyzes of samples from feverish people in Pyongyang show that they were infected by the omicron variant.