North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared a “shining victory” over Covid-19 as his sister revealed he had fallen ill during the outbreak, which she blamed on Seoul, state media said on Thursday. Addressing a meeting of health workers and scientists, Kim announced a “victory… in the war against the malignant pandemic disease”, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
Kim fell ill with a “high fever” but refused to rest while the country battled the virus, his powerful sister Kim Yo Jong told the meeting as officials in the audience wept, a KCTV broadcast showed.
The isolated nation, which has maintained a rigid blockade since the start of the pandemic, confirmed an Omicron outbreak in the capital Pyongyang in May and activated a “maximum emergency epidemic prevention system”.
North Korea refers to “fever patients” rather than “Covid patients” in case reports, apparently due to a lack of testing capacity. It has recorded nearly 4.8 million “fever” infections and just 74 deaths for an official fatality rate of 0.002 percent, according to state media. It has reported no new cases since July 29.
This handling of the pandemic “is a miracle unprecedented in the world’s public health history,” Kim said to thunderous applause, according to KCNA. “The victory gained by our people is a historic event.” KCTV had never before aired a speech by “first sister” Kim Yo Jong, who made an impassioned address, the broadcast showed.