Kim Jong-un’s regime is going through a difficult time due to the arrival of the Omicron variant in an impoverished country, isolated from the world for years and that has not vaccinated any of its inhabitants. In a state of emergency, the Government urged the distribution of medicines and is studying the possibility of confinement. With no inoculation plan nearby and reluctant to accept help from its neighbor to the South and the United States, the situation does not seem to have a simple or forthcoming resolution.
Pyongyang reported another eight deaths theoretically linked to Covid-19 on Monday, bringing the number of casualties to 50 since the first positive was reported last Thursday. The picture is bleak when the number of infections rose rapidly to 1.21 million inhabitants.
North Korea is going through the first wave of coronavirus since the outbreak of 2020 and the contagious Omicron variant is hitting a population that has not received – nor does it plan to receive in the immediate term – any vaccine.
The concern led Kim Jong-un to request that the distribution of medicines be improved to alleviate positive cases. In a meeting with the politburo, he reproached that the order to uninterruptedly release and supply state stocks of medicines to pharmacies is not yet in operation and was critical of those in charge of the operation.
High contagion rate, low testing and non-existent vaccination
Without inoculants or a large testing capacity, yesterday they detected 392,920 potential cases (the way in which they are accounting for the sick), according to the KCNA agency. In this way they crossed the million barrier in a matter of days. But with the low amount of tests, they estimate that the number may be higher.
However, more than 648,000 have already recovered and another 565,000 are being treated, the KCNA said. The proliferation of patients worries about the weakness of the health system that will not be able to face the crisis if the situation worsens.
In 2021, the regime in power rejected a donation of almost five million vaccines from the COVAX mechanism. With no positive cases in the country and the borders sealed to the outside, whether they are people from other countries or North Koreans who were not in the territory, the hermeticism worked until these weeks.
Now Kim Jong-un has given the green light to confine “every city and county” as authorities deem necessary. He will also deploy the Army to help expedite drug deployment.
South Korea offers “spare no” resources to help its neighbor
At the moment, Pyongyang has not officially issued any request for assistance, but the South Korean Yonhap agency reported that they communicated through traditional diplomatic channels with China to request support.
The one who did make public its willingness to collaborate was South Korea. The new government of Yoon Suk-yeol, who came to power on the basis of being distant from the northern neighbor, said that he will propose opening a dialogue with the Kim Jong-un administration.
“If the North Korean authorities accept, we will not skimp on any necessary aid, such as medicines, medical equipment, Covid vaccines and health personnel,” Yoon said in his first parliamentary appearance as head of state.
Until now, Pyongyang has not commented on Seoul’s statements at a time when the relationship between the two is completely frozen. While Yoon would raise the issue with US President Joe Biden when they meet in the South Korean capital on Saturday.
North Korea has severe differences with both nations and it is unclear whether it would accept a hand from Seoul and Washington, analysts say.
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