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Lockdown report suggests North Korea may be quietly fighting a resurgence of COVID

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SeoulNorth Korea ordered a five-day lockdown in the capital due to “respiratory illnesses”, a report said on Wednesday, in what appeared to be the first city-wide restrictions since declaring victory over COVID-19 in August 2022. Pyongyang residents have been ordered to stay indoors from Wednesday to Sunday and must check their temperature several times each day, Seoul-based specialist website NK News reported, citing a government announcement.

The report did not mention COVID, but said the common cold is among the illnesses currently spreading in the capital, the report said.

The government order comes a day after NK News, citing sources in Pyongyang, reported that people in the city appeared to be stockpiling goods in anticipation of the lockdown. It is unclear if similar lockdowns have been imposed in other areas, and state media has not announced any new measures.

TOPSHOT-COREA-HEALTH-VIRUS-TRANSPORT
Health officials from the Ryonmot trolleybus office disinfect a bus as part of preventive measures against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Pyongyang, North Korea, June 9, 2022.

KIM WON JIN/AFP/Getty


Experts have suggested that North Korea’s largest city is likely dealing with a resurgence of COVID.

“The COVID-19 disappears and reappears depending on the temperature, not only in North Korea, but also around the world,” said Go Myung-hyun, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

The Korean peninsula is currently in the grip of what forecasters have called a Siberian cold snap, with temperatures in Pyongyang plunging to -22 degrees Celsius (-7.6 Fahrenheit).

“It was premature for North Korea to celebrate its victory over the virus … with the temperature dropping, COVID has re-emerged,” Guo told AFP. “North Korea must have prepared for this to some extent, but it seems the virus has re-emerged a little earlier than they thought.”


Concerns are growing about North Korea’s handling of its COVID-19 outbreak

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North Korea’s neighbor and key trading partner, China, recently abandoned its policy of zero spread of COVID-19 fought a wave of infections that overcrowded hospitals and crematoriums.

North Korea has maintained a tight blockade since the start of the pandemic, but allows some trade with China.

In May last year, North Korea officially recognized its first outbreak of COVID but only three months later he declared victory over the virus, calling it a “miracle”.

Experts, including the World Health Organization, have long questioned Pyongyang’s statistics on COVID and have argued that the outbreak has been brought under control.

North Korea has one of the world’s worst health care systems, with poorly equipped hospitals, few intensive care units and a lack of drugs to treat COVID, experts say. It is believed that he did not vaccinate any of the 25 million people, although reports indicate that he may have obtained some vaccines from China.

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