North Korea has ordered a strict national lockdown after confirming its first official Covid infections. State media have reported an Omicron outbreak in the capital, Pyongyang, but did not state the number of cases. North Korea has rejected any kind of vaccine programme, even when offered a supply by other countries.
Instead, it controlled Covid by sealing its borders – and had never recorded a case, despite experts believing the virus has long been present.
Outsiders say the nation’s 25 million population is vulnerable due to the lack of a Covid-19 vaccine programme, even rejecting offers from the international community to supply millions of AstraZeneca and Chinese-made Sinovac jabs last year.
There have also been concerns about North Korea’s impoverished healthcare system.
KCNA said leader Kim Jong-un had vowed to eradicate the outbreak, which it called a “severe national emergency” that had breached the country’s “quarantine front”. North Korea’s strategy of sealing its foreign borders – one of the first countries to do so, in January 2020 – has also stopped essential supplies from entering the country, leading to food shortages and a faltering economy.