North Korea’s Kim Criticizes Officials Over Pandemic Response, Deploys Army

Factfile on the Covid-19 outbreak in North Korea, as of May 15.

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un criticized “irresponsible” officials for the country’s response to the pandemic and ordered the military to help distribute medicine, state media said on Monday, as Seoul offered aid against Covid-19.

More than a million people have been sick with what Pyongyang calls a “fever”, state media said, despite leader Kim ordering nationwide lockdowns in a bid to curb the spread of the disease among the uninhabited population. vaccinated.

He ordered the army to get to work “on the immediate stabilization of the drug supply in Pyongyang”, the capital, where Omicron was detected last week in the first reported cases of covid-19 in North Korea.

The lack of proper drug distribution was due “to the Cabinet and public health sector officials in charge of supply not rolling up their sleeves, not properly acknowledging the current crisis,” Kim was quoted as saying by state media KCNA.

He also criticized the failures in official legal supervision, pointing out “several negative phenomena in the handling and sale of medicines at the national level.”

“While visiting a pharmacy, Kim Jong Un saw with his eyes the shortage of medicines in North Korea,” Cheong Seong-jang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute, told AFP.

KCNA said that as of May 15, a total of 50 people had died, with 1,213,550 cases of “fever” and more than half a million currently receiving medical treatment.

– Help from Seoul? –

β€œHe is pointing out the general inadequacy of the quarantine system,” he said.

North Korea has previously rejected offers of Chinese-made vaccines, but Kim has said they will “actively learn” from Beijing’s so-called Covid-zero disease management approach.

“If the North Korean authorities agree, we will spare no necessary support such as medicines, including COVID-19 vaccines, medical supplies and health care personnel,” he told the South Korean National Assembly.

The decision to accept help may depend more on Kim’s nuclear test plans than on the medical situation, said Cheong of the Sejong Institute.

“Since the country has not yet started vaccination against covid-19, there is a risk that the virus will spread rapidly among the masses unless it is reduced with immediate and appropriate measures,” the regional director of WHO, Poonam Khetrapal Singh.

The United States and South Korea have warned that Kim is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, the regime’s seventh.

Analysts warned that Kim could speed up testing plans to distract the population from the coronavirus outbreak.

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