Days after leader Kim Jong Un declared “success” over COVID-19, official media reported that North Korea had lifted a mask requirement and eased other viral restrictions.
The declaration follows Pyongyang’s accusation of Seoul earlier this week for the COVID-19 outbreak in the North and threat to “wipe out” the South Korean government if necessary.
Virus restrictions were eased as “the public health crisis created in the country was completely defused and its whole territory was turned into a clean one free from the malignant virus in the shortest period,” Pyongyang’s official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
“The step for obligatory mask-wearing was lifted in all areas except frontline areas and borderline cities and counties, given that the whole country was turned into an epidemic-free zone,” KCNA said.
Just a few months after declaring its first cases in May, North Korea this week proclaimed a “shining victory” over Covid.
With the exception of border regions, social exclusion and other anti-virus measures were also suspended.
But masks were advised for those who had respiratory illness symptoms, and North Koreans were admonished to “stay watchful” against “strange things”—ostensibly referring to propaganda pamphlets from the South.
South Korean activists have been flying balloons with money and propaganda leaflets across the border for years in defiance of a prohibition that went into effect in 2021, which the North has long criticised.
On Wednesday, Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of Kim Jong Un, claimed responsibility for these actions and threatened Seoul with “deadly” vengeance for the North’s Covid outbreak.
Kim Yo Jong further disclosed that the supreme leader had contracted an illness during the epidemic and had a “high fever.”
Since late April, North Korea has reported only 74 fatalities out of roughly 4.8 million “fever” cases, with only a small portion of those cases being recognised as Covid, according to KCNA.
Experts have long disputed Pyongyang’s Covid figures and assurances that the outbreak has been contained, including the World Health Organization.
According to analysts, North Korea has one of the poorest healthcare systems in the world, with few intensive care units and poorly furnished hospitals.
Despite perhaps receiving some vaccines from China, it is not thought to have immunised any of its 26 million inhabitants, according to the Seoul-based specialised website NK News.
Aryan Jakhar works as an Editor-in-Chief at The Shining Media. Also, he is an editor at YouthPolitician (digital media situated in Taiwan). He writes his opinions on social issues at YouthKiAwaaz and also on his blogger website.