North Korea yesterday imposed a nationwide lockdown to control its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak after saying for more than two years that it had a perfect record keeping out the virus that has spread to nearly every place in the world.
The size of the outbreak was not immediately known, but it could have serious consequences, because the country has a poor healthcare system and its 26 million people are believed to be mostly unvaccinated against COVID-19.
Some experts say that the North, by its admission of an outbreak, might be seeking outside aid.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that tests of samples collected on Sunday from an unspecified number of people with fevers in the capital, Pyongyang, confirmed they were infected with the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.
In response, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during called for a thorough lockdown of cities and counties, and said that workplaces should be isolated by units to block the virus from spreading, KCNA said.
Kim urged health workers to step up disinfection efforts at workplaces and homes, and mobilize reserve medical supplies.
It was crucial to stabilize transmissions and eliminate the infection source as fast as possible, while also easing the inconveniences to the public caused by the virus controls, he said.
The country would surely overcome what he described as an unexpected outbreak, because its government and people are “united as one.”
North Korea, which continues to employ one of the world’s most restrictive border controls, did not provide further details about its lockdown.
A photographer on the South Korean side of the border saw dozens of people working in farm fields or walking on footpaths at a North Korean border town — an indication that the lockdown does not require people to stay home, or it exempts farm work.
The measures described in state media and Kim’s declaration that economic goals should be met possibly indicate that North Korea is not strictly confining people to their homes, and is focusing more on restricting travel and supplies between regions to slow the viral spread, analyst Cheong Seong-chang at South Korea’s Sejong Institute said.
The North’s government has shunned vaccines offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program, possibly because those have international monitoring requirements.
The South Korean Ministry of Unification, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said that Seoul is willing to provide medical assistance and other help to the North based on humanitarian considerations.
Relations between the Koreas have deteriorated since 2019 amid a stalemate in nuclear negotiations and the North’s increasingly provocative weapons demonstrations.
Kim Sin-gon, a professor at Seoul’s Korea University College of Medicine, said North Korea likely is signaling its willingness to receive outside vaccines shipments, but wants many more doses than offered by COVAX to inoculate its entire population multiple times.
North Korea would also want COVID-19 medicines as well as medical equipment shipments that are banned by UN sanctions, he said.
BUYING TIME: Russia is estimated to have suffered over 100,000 casualties in its push to capture the strategically insignificant town, giving Ukraine time to ready its troops Whether Bakhmut has fallen or not, Moscow is being pulled deeper into an ever more costly fight for the frontline city as Kyiv readies a major offensive, experts said. Russia’s claim to have conquered the destroyed city, which Ukraine rejected on Sunday, does not mean significant new terrain from which to launch attacks nor harden defenses. However, Moscow has made the eastern city’s capture a key aim and has fought the war’s longest battle, as well as one of its deadliest, to try to win what it would like to bill as a significant success. US President Joe Biden, speaking from the G7
DEEPFAKE: Using AI to change their face and voice, a fraudster convinced a businessman that they were his friend and needed 4.3 million yuan for a public tender A scammer in China used artificial intelligence (AI) to pose as a businessman’s trusted friend and convince him to hand over millions of yuan, authorities have said. The victim, surnamed Guo, received a video call last month from a person who looked and sounded like a close friend. However, the caller was actually a con artist “using smart AI technology to change their face” and voice, said an article published on Monday by a media portal associated with the government in Fuzhou City. The scammer was “masquerading as [Guo’s] good friend and perpetrating fraud,” the article said. Guo was persuaded to transfer 4.3
A Malaysian comedian better known for mocking attempts by Western chefs at Asian cooking has had his Chinese social media account suspended after making jokes about China. Nigel Ng (黃瑾瑜), who uses the name Uncle Roger, is the latest comedian to feel the consequences of jokes that could be perceived as reflecting negatively on China under increasingly intense censorship and rising nationalism. Last week, a Chinese comedian came under police investigation for a joke about stray dogs. Ng on Thursday posted a video clip from an upcoming comedy special in which he pokes fun at Chinese surveillance and Beijing’s claims of sovereignty over
Gunmen in Ecuador opened fire in a restaurant in a beach town popular with tourists, killing at least six people and wounding six more, prosecutors said on Sunday. The attack happened on Saturday night in a busy nightlife area of the town of Montanita on the Pacific coast, the prosecutors’ office said on Twitter. It gave no information on the age or identity of the people who were shot. Located between Colombia and Peru, the world’s top producers of cocaine, Ecuador is weathering the biggest surge in crime in its recent history. Crime linked to drug trafficking caused the murder rate to almost double