North Korea Reportedly Confirms First-Ever COVID-19 Case of Omicron Variant
© AP Photo / Jon Chol JinAn official of the Hygienic and Anti-epidemic Center in Phyongchon District disinfect the corridor of a building in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Feb. 5, 2021.
© AP Photo / Jon Chol Jin
Since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, North Korea has declared a complete absence of coronavirus cases in the country to date. Now, there are supposedly only three countries in the world left unaffected by the virus, two of which are small island nations in the Pacific.
North Korea established the "maximum emergency" virus control system after confirming the first case of the omicron strain of COVID-19 on Thursday, South Korean News Agency Yonhap reported, citing the DPRK's media.
According to the report, authorities decided that samples gathered from fever-ridden patients in Pyongyang on Sunday were identical to the highly transmissible omicron.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attended a meeting of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, where he stated that the nation is in an emergency. However, he reportedly promised to overcome the "unexpected crisis."
"In all the counties and cities of the country, everyone lock down your region and... maximally close the paths for the spread of the malignant virus... We will overcome the sudden crisis and certainly win the fight against the virus," Kim said, per Yonhap.
In late April, cross-border freight train services between North Korea and China, the only open road to the outside from the DPRK, had been closed following a string of COVID-19 cases in the Chinese border city of Dandong, according to Yonhap. The suspension was decided at North Korea's request, according to the report.
The suspension occurred less than four months after Pyongyang lowered its yearslong border closures against the coronavirus established in early 2020.
North Korea has implemented a "zero COVID-19 policy," which includes border closures and quarantine measures, and claims to have kept the country free from the virus.