North Korean leader declares ‘brilliant victory’ over Covid

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Seoul (AFP) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared a “brilliant victory” over Covid-19 on Wednesday, after authorities reported no new cases of the virus for nearly two weeks.

Chairing a meeting with health workers and scientists, Kim announced a “victory…in the war against the malignant pandemic disease”, according to the government news agency KCNA.

The isolated country, which has maintained a rigid coronavirus blockade since the start of the pandemic, announced an outbreak of Omicron in the capital Pyongyang in May and activated a “maximum emergency epidemic prevention system”.

North Korea refers to “fever patients” rather than “Covid patients” in case reports, apparently due to a lack of testing capacity.

Since July 29, Pyongyang has not reported any new cases of the virus.

According to KCNA, Kim said “the victory won by our people is a historic event that has once again shown the world the greatness of our state, the indomitable tenacity of our people and the fine national customs that we are proud of.”

At the end of Kim’s speech, “attendees let out thunderous cheers of ‘Hurrah!’ many times, reminiscing in tears on the great feats and devoted service he rendered to the people to bring about a brilliant victory to be etched in history”.

Kim also held a photo op with the attendees and senior officials, which filled them with “great excitement and joy.”

North Korea has recorded nearly 4.8 million infections since late April, with just 74 deaths for an official death rate of 0.002%, according to KCNA.

The country has one of the worst health systems in the world, with poorly equipped hospitals, few intensive care units and no drugs or vaccines for Covid-19, experts say.

In contrast, South Korea – with its advanced healthcare systems and highly vaccinated population – has a Covid death rate of 0.12%, according to official data.