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North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un criticized the country’s officials over slow delivery times for medicine, and instructed military personnel to aid in pandemic response as the coronavirus has infected 1.2 million people with fever and killed 50 in just days.
More than 560,000 North Koreans are isolating because of the fever, which has rapidly infected people in and around the capital city of Pyongyang since late April, state media reported.
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On Monday, eight more deaths and nearly 393,000 new cases of the fevers were reported, according to the North’s emergency antivirus headquarters.
It remains unclear how many cases were confirmed as COVID-19, but the country reportedly lacks the testing supplies needed to confirm virus infections in large quantities. The country has been quarantining people with symptoms at shelters as their most reliable COVID-19 mitigation strategy.
North Korea’s 26 million people are believed to be unvaccinated against the coronavirus, although South Korean officials said last week that they would offer to send vaccines to their northern neighbor. North Korea has made no indication of whether they plan to accept the offer.
Kim called out government and health officials during a meeting Sunday with the ruling party Politburo over what he claims was a poor pandemic response. He said there is a failure to deliver medicine supplies to pharmacies on time because of their “irresponsible” work attitude and lackluster organization, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
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The Politburo had sent an emergency order to immediately distribute state medicine supplies and for pharmacies to remain open for 24 hours a day.
Kim, however, said these measures were not being implemented properly. He ordered his military’s medical units to start stabilizing the medicine supply in Pyongyang, KCNA said.
The North Korean leader and Politburo members made on-site inspections of pharmacies in a Pyongyang district after the meeting Sunday, when Kim noticed that most of the stores in the area were in poor condition and did not have ample storage spaces. He also blasted some pharmacists because they were not wearing proper white gowns.
NORTH KOREA REPORTS FIRST COVID-19 OUTBREAK, IMPOSES NATIONWIDE LOCKDOWN
North Korea admitted on Thursday that the country had suffered a COVID-19 outbreak, the first time of such an omission since the pandemic began. Officials said an unspecified number of people had tested positive for the omicron variant of the coronavirus. The country imposed a lockdown and Kim instructed public health officials to identify people with fevers in order to isolate them.
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While this was the first time North Korea had publicly acknowledged a virus outbreak, this claim was widely doubted even with the country’s strict border policies and large-scale quarantines.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.