A first since the start of the pandemic. The North Korean authorities have announced that they have identified the first suspected case of Covid-19 in the country.
According to official announcements, it would be a North Korean who passed to the South three years ago and returned on July 19 with symptoms of the new coronavirus. Kim Jong Un led an exceptional meeting on Saturday to discuss “a critical situation during which the vicious virus would have entered the country”. The city of Kaesong has been placed under lockdown pending test results.
For months, North Korea has claimed to have not known any case of Covid-19, an assertion that some experts doubt. As a precaution, the country closed its borders at the end of January.
At the beginning of the month, Kim Jong Un had praised the effectiveness of the authorities’ strategy, evoking a “brilliant success” in the face of “the breakthrough of this pernicious virus” and the maintenance of “a stable anti-epidemic situation despite the global health crisis”. “He has repeatedly said that a premature lifting of anti-epidemic measures will result in an unimaginable and irreparable crisis,” KCNA wrote.
Juliette Morillot, historian, journalist and author specializing in North Korea, explained to us last June that the closure of the borders had had major consequences for North Korea: “Even if there is no official case in the country, in January North Korea closed all its borders including with China, however, 80% of North Korea’s trade depends on China. They have cut themselves off from part of their resources. Currently, we are talking about reducing food distribution coupons, we are starting to see supply problems. ”
It must be said that the pandemic was not an opportunity for North Korea to calm the situation with South Korea: in mid-June, the North Korean authorities demolished part of the office of link installed at the border with the South, the sign of a halt in the rapprochement between the two countries.
The fact that the potentially infected patient returns from South Korea could be another opportunity for Pyongyang to distance itself again.