Kim Jong-un Orders Lockdown as North Korea Reports First Covid Cases

If North Korea fails to bring the outbreak under control, it “could face a serious food crisis and the kind of great confusion we have seen in China recently,” Mr. Cheong said, referring to the severe difficulties created by the draconian restrictions that China has imposed on major cities like Shanghai in recent weeks.

Analysts questioned whether the Covid outbreak would affect Mr. Kim’s plan to restart nuclear tests. ​American and South Korean officials have warned in the past week that North Korea could resume such tests as soon as this month, possibly around the time that President Biden is scheduled to meet with South Korea’s new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, in Seoul on May 21.

They also wondered whether North Korea would change its policy of not accepting any pandemic-related humanitarian aid, including vaccine donations from world health organizations. South Korean officials have hoped that humanitarian shipments, including Covid-19 vaccines, could help restart the stalled dialogue between North Korea and the United States and allies.

A spokesperson for the World Health Organization said Thursday that it was in touch with North Korean health officials, but had yet to receive an official report about the confirmed case. According to the W.H.O., the organization supported the development of North Korea’s vaccine deployment plan, making the country “eligible to receive Covid-19 vaccines through Covax.”

Mr. Easley, of Ewha Womans University, said North Koreans might be less interested in nuclear or missile tests when the most urgent threat involved the coronavirus rather than a foreign military. But, Mr. Cheong said, “If anything, the North Korean leadership will likely try to boost the morale of the people in the wake of the outbreak through nuclear or missile tests.”

Along with North Korea, Turkmenistan and several small island nations such as Tuvalu and Nauru had reported having no coronavirus cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Still, the North had enforced some of the world’s harshest restrictions to keep the virus out.

In 2020, it created a buffer zone along its border with China, issuing a shoot-to-kill order to stop unauthorized crossings, according to South Korean and U.S. officials. Also that year, when a man from South Korea defected to the North, North Korea declared a national emergency for fear he might have brought in the virus. It was also accused of shooting a South Korean fisheries official found adrift in its waters and burning his body for fear of the virus.

Source: NYT > Top Stories

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