North Korea reports Omicron variant outbreak in Pyongyang
May 12, 2022 - A first public admission of Covid infections in North Korea could signal a coming crisis for a nation that has refused to vaccinate its population.
“The state’s most serious emergency has occurred,” is how North Korea’s official KCNA news agency broke the story of an outbreak of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in its capital city, Pyongyang.
This is the isolated nation’s first official admission of an outbreak of Covid-19, but one that could spell the beginning of a crisis for a nation that lacks medical resources and has refused international help with vaccinations – instead relying on keeping its borders firmly shut.
Since the pandemic began in January 2020, there have been doubts that North Korea has avoided any Covid-19 infections, and in fact has admitted in the past to thousands of “suspected cases”.
Information on cases is hard to verify, but KCNA says samples taken on May 8 from people in Pyongyang who were experiencing fevers showed a sub-variant of the Omicron virus, without detailing case numbers or infection sources.
As of March 31, 2022, no cases of Covid-19 had been reported, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Likewise, there are no official records of any North Koreans having been vaccinated against the virus either.
WHO’s latest data shows 64,207 of North Korea’s 25 million people have received Covid-19 PCR tests – all of them testing negative.
From March 24-31, 1,405 people were tested for the virus, with 122 reporting influenza-like illness or severe acute respiratory infections.
North Korea has refused vaccine supplies from the COVAX sharing programme and the Sinovac Biotech vaccine from China.