State media reported on Thursday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had declared victory in the fight against the novel coronavirus and had ordered the lifting of the strictest anti-epidemic measures put in place in May.
With what international aid organizations claim to be limited testing capabilities, North Korea has reported no new suspected cases since July 29 but has not specified how many confirmed infections of the virus it has discovered.
According to a report by the state news agency KCNA, Kim stated that while lifting the strictest anti-pandemic measures, North Korea must maintain a “steel-strong anti-epidemic barrier and intensifying the anti-epidemic work until the end of the global health crisis.”
Though the authoritarian North has used the pandemic to tighten social controls, analysts said that its declaration of victory could be the first step toward resuming trade that has been hampered by border closures and other restrictions.
Additionally, observers noted that it might pave the way for the North to carry out a nuclear weapon test for the first time since 2017.
According to another official quoted by KCNA, North Korea’s official death rate of 74 is a “unprecedented miracle” when compared to other nations.
The number of people exhibiting fever symptoms was what North Korea reported rather than the number of confirmed cases. On May 15, when those daily cases reached a peak of over 392,000, health professionals issued an impending crisis alert.
The absence of independent data has led the World Health Organization to question North Korea’s assertions, saying last month that it thought the situation was getting worse rather than better.
Pyongyang declares victory despite having no known vaccination program in place. The nation claims that instead it used lockdowns, homegrown medical procedures, and what Kim referred to as the “advantageous Korean-style socialist system.”
The North has claimed to be conducting rigorous medical examinations across the country, with daily PCR tests on water collected in border areas being one of the measures.
It added that it has been working on new techniques to more accurately detect the virus, its variants, as well as other contagious illnesses like monkeypox.
According to Kim Yo Jong, Kim’s sister, the North Korean leader had feverish symptoms himself and attributed the outbreak to South Korean leaflets, according to KCNA.
She praised his efforts, saying, “Even though he was seriously ill with a high fever, he could not lie down for a moment thinking about the people he had to look after until the end in the face of the anti-epidemic war.”