State media reports ‘biggest emergency incident’ after BA.2 sub-variant is detected in Pyongyang.
North Korea confirmed its first outbreak of COVID-19, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Thursday, raising fears of a humanitarian disaster in one of the only unvaccinated nations.
Authorities detected a sub-variant of the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant, BA.2, in people in Pyongyang, KCNA reported, without elaborating on the number of confirmed cases.
“There has been the biggest emergency incident in the country, with a hole in our emergency quarantine front, that has been kept safely over the past two years and three months since February 2020,” the state broadcaster said.
The North, which closed its borders in January 2020, had been one of the few countries on Earth to report no COVID cases during the pandemic, although analysts expressed doubt about the official figures given the country’s vast, porous land border with China.
Aid workers have repeatedly that the North would struggle to handle a major coronavirus outbreak after refusing to take delivery of vaccines provided by the United Nations-backed global vaccination initiative, COVAX.
The isolated country ruled by third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un also suffers from widespread malnutrition and a dilapidated and ill-equipped health system.
Before the pandemic, the UN estimated that more than one-quarter of North Koreans suffered from malnourishment.
In July, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimated the country could fall 860,000 short tons of its food requirements in 2021.