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Kim Jong Un declares victory against COVID

August 11, 2022

Pyongyang is lifting its strictest anti-viral measures after declaring victory over the coronavirus. Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's dictator Kim Jong Un, blamed the COVID outbreak on leaflets from the South.

Kim Jong Un wears a mask during a visit to a Pyongyang pharmacy
Kim Jong Un allegedly suffered a bout of 'high fever' during the outbreakImage: KCNA/dpa/picture alliance

North Korea is lifting its maximum anti-epidemic measures, state news agency KCNA reported on Thursday, announcing that the country's dictator Kim Jong Un had declared victory over the virus.

The KCNA said that Kim "solemnly declared the victory in the maximum emergency anti-epidemic campaign" and called for the nation to maintain vigilance and control in border areas, seeing that monkeypox and other COVID variants were still spreading globally.

Coping with the pandemic

North Korea had imposed the anti-pandemic measures in May. It is only able to monitor cases of fever, seemingly owing to a lack of available tests in the country. 

The isolated country since claimed to have registered about 4.8 million "fever" cases out of its population of 26 million, but only 74 fatalities. Kim Jong Un hailed these unverifiable figures as "an unprecedented miracle," according to KCNA. 

International health experts have questioned the numbers provided by North Korean officials, with the World Health Organization (WHO) saying last month it believed the situation was getting worse, not better, because of an absence of independent data on COVID cases.

North Korean health officials, however, have been claiming a slowing outbreak for weeks, saying there were no suspected COVID cases since late July. 

Kim's sister implies he had virus

On Thursday, Kim Yo Jong said South Korea was still committing alleged crimes against humanity by sending the leaflets and that strong retaliation must be taken. She said her brother Kim Jong Un had had fever symptoms, the first North Korean indication that Kim was believed to have contracted the virus.The state agency also cited the dictator's sister, Kim Yo Jong, as saying that the outbreak had started due to leaflets entering the country from South Korea. The propaganda leaflets, which criticize the Kim family ruling the impoverished state, are a sore spot in relations with Seoul.

South Korea's Unification Ministry, responsible for inter-Korean affairs, expressed regret over North Korea's claims, saying North Korea repeatedly made "groundless claims over the route of the COVID" that were "very disrespectful and threatening remarks."

Other health officials and experts from outside the country say COVID spread after Pyongyang eased its borders with China for freight transportation in January and that the country also saw a surge in cases after large-scale events in Pyongyang in April.

rm, dj/wd (Reuters, AP, AFP)