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Kim Jong Un declares North Korea victorious over Covid

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared the battle against the new coronavirus won and ordered the lifting of maximum disease control measures imposed in May, state media reported Thursday.

North Korea has not disclosed the number of confirmed infections with the virus, but has not reported any new suspected cases since July 29, with international humanitarian agencies assuming limited testing capabilities.

In lifting maximum anti-pandemic measures, Kim said North Korea must maintain a “steel-hard anti-epidemic barrier and intensify anti-epidemic work until the end of the global health crisis,” according to state news agency KCNA.

Analysts said the authoritarian North’s declaration of victory, which has used the pandemic to tighten social controls, could be a prelude to the resumption of trade hampered by the border blockade and other restrictions.

Kim Yo Jong blamed leaflets from South Korea for the Covid outbreak in North Korea.

Observers also said it could pave the way for the North to conduct a nuclear weapons test for the first time since 2017.

North Korea’s official death toll of 74 is an “unprecedented miracle” compared to other countries, KCNA reported, citing another official.

Instead of confirmed cases, North Korea reported the number of people with fever symptoms. Those daily cases peaked at more than 392,000 on May 15, prompting health experts to warn of an inevitable crisis.

The World Health Organization has questioned North Korea’s claims, saying last month that it believes the situation is worsening, not improving, in the absence of independent data.
Pyongyang’s declaration of victory comes despite the fact that no vaccine program has been initiated. Instead, it says it is relying on closures, on-site medical care and what Kim calls a “beneficial Korean-style socialist system.”

The North claimed to have conducted intensive medical checks throughout the country, with daily PCR tests of water collected in border areas.

It also claimed to have developed new methods to better detect the virus and its variants, as well as other infectious diseases, such as monkeypox.

Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, said the North Korean leader himself was suffering from febrile symptoms and blamed leaflets from South Korea for the outbreak, KCNA reported.

“Although he was seriously ill and had a high fever, he could not lie down for a moment and think of the people he had to take care of in the face of the war against the epidemic until the end,” he said in a speech acknowledging his efforts.

On Thursday, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it deeply regretted North Korea’s “repeated unfounded allegations” about how Covid-19 entered the country.

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