Speaking at a meeting of health workers and scientists in Pyongyang, Kim called for an easing of containment measures and described the official death toll of 74 as an “unprecedented miracle in the history of the global health community”, state media said on Thursday. .
“The victory achieved by our people is a historic event that once again shows the world that we are proud of the greatness of our state, the indomitable tenacity of our people and the beautiful national customs,” Kim said, state news agency KCNA said in its report. of Wednesday’s meeting.
His influential sister, Kim Yo-jongBlamed the country for the outbreak Promotional leaflets Balloons flew across the border from South Korea, and Seoul warned of “deadly” retaliation if it failed to stop activists from sending leaflets.
She also suggested that her brother had been infected with the virus, saying that he had brought a “fever” among the millions of North Koreans.
“Although he was seriously ill with high fever, he could not sleep for a moment thinking about the people he had to take care of till the end during the anti-epidemic war,” she said.
North Korea, whose health infrastructure was ill-prepared to deal with a major outbreak, insisted that they No case of Kovid-19 has been reported For the first two years of the epidemic.
Since May this year, about 4.8m cases of “fever” have been reported among its population of 26 million but only a fraction of those have been identified as Covid, possibly to avoid creating public alarm and because of a shortage of testing kits.
Experts have cast doubt on official reports of low deaths and zero new cases in North Korea since July 29. The country has one of the worst healthcare systems in the world, with few well-equipped hospitals, few intensive care units and no Covid-19 treatment drugs or vaccines.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said last month that the situation is getting worse, not better, despite the lack of independent data. There has been no response from the WHO to the government’s claims that the virus has been eradicated.
North Korea has rejected international offers to provide vaccines, although it is unclear whether Kim and other senior figures in the ruling party have been vaccinated.
In an allegedly profanity-laced speech, Kim Yo-jong repeated unsubstantiated claims that the virus had entered the country via shipments from South Korea, claiming the outbreak was a “hysterical farce” perpetrated by the South in an attempt to spread cross-border. stress
“[South Korean] Puppets are still dropping leaflets and dirty things in our territory. We have to be tough to counter it,” she said.
Activists and defector groups in the South have been around for years Balloons were blown across the border to distribute hundreds of thousands of leaflets criticizing Kim Jong-un.
Experts have offered a more plausible explanation for the outbreak — that the virus entered North Korea after China’s border briefly reopened to cargo in January and after military parades and other large gatherings in April.
Other North Korean officials, including one, have been unusually candid about the toll the pandemic has taken Report A senior Pyongyang official quoted a senior Pyongyang official as saying that there were instances of public disorder soon after the outbreak was confirmed in mid-May, with people panicking over drug shortages fleeing isolation and “stamping” pharmacies.
Experts believe the virus has prevented Kim from focusing on the country’s weak economy and nuclear program, and have speculated that the regime may become more provocative now that the pandemic has been declared over.
“for the Kim Jong-un “Declaring victory against Covid means he has to move on to other priorities, like boosting the economy or conducting nuclear tests,” said Leif-Erik Easley, a professor at Eva University in Seoul.
“Kim Yo-jong’s bellicose rhetoric is concerning because not only is she trying to blame the resurgence of Covid on South Korea, but she is trying to justify further military provocations by North Korea.”