North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has claimed he helped workers by sharing his own medical supplies, allowing them to ‘rise like a phoenix’ from the country’s Covid crisis.
North Korea is in the midst of a Covid outbreak, having reportedly only recorded its first case on May 12 this year, despite the disease running rampant throughout the rest of the world over the past two years.
But, despite officials in the isolated country revealing it found nearly 220,000 more people with feverish symptoms and a mostly unvaccinated populace, the North Korean leader has claimed progress.
Kim is reportedly considering relaxing virus restrictions in a bid to nurse a struggling economy and news outlets in the country have said the North Korean leader shared his own medical supplies with farmers in a bid to fight the virus.
Local newspaper reports said farm workers in South Hwanghae province were striving to achieve ‘miraculous results’ in rice-planting to repay Kim, describing how their leader has donated his personal medical supplies to help with anti-virus efforts, which the newspaper said allowed workers to ‘rise like a phoenix.’
The outbreak has caused concern about serious tragedies in the poor, isolated country with one of the world’s worst health care systems and a high tolerance for civilian suffering.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has claimed he helped workers during the country’s Covid crisis by sharing he own medical supplies. Pictured: Kim Jong Un at a meeting on May 21, 2022
Experts say North Korea is almost certainly downplaying the true scale of the viral spread, including a strangely small death toll, to soften the political blow on Kim as he navigates the toughest moment in his decade of rule.
Around 219,030 North Koreans with fevers were identified in the 24 hours through 6pm Friday, the fifth straight daily increase of around 200,000, according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency, which attributed the information to the government’s anti-virus headquarters.
North Korea said more than 2.4 million people have fallen ill and 66 people have died since an unidentified fever began quickly spreading in late April, although the country has only been able to identify a handful of those cases as Covid-19 due to a lack of testing supplies.
After maintaining a dubious claim for two and a half years that it had perfectly blocked the virus from entering its territory, the North admitted to omicron infections last week.
The North has mobilised more than a million health workers to find people with fevers and isolate them at quarantine facilities.
Kim also imposed strict restrictions on travel between cities and towns and mobilized thousands of troops to help with the transport of medicine to pharmacies in the country’s capital, Pyongyang, which has been the center of the outbreak.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (C) paying his respects for Marshal of the Korean People’s Army Hyon Chol Hae, general adviser to the DPRK Ministry of National Defence, in Pyongyang
During a ruling party Politburo meeting on Saturday, Kim insisted the country was starting to bring the outbreak under control and called for tightened vigilance to maintain the ‘affirmative trend’ in the anti-virus campaign, KCNA said.
But Kim also seemed to hint at relaxing his pandemic response to ease his economic woes, instructing officials to actively modify the country’s preventive measures based on the changing virus situation and to come up with various plans to revitalize the national economy.
KCNA said Politburo members debated ways for ‘more effectively engineering and executing’ the government’s anti-virus policy in accordance with how the spread of the virus was being ‘stably controlled and abated,’ but the report did not specify what was discussed.
While imposing supposedly ‘maximum’ preventive measures, Kim has also stressed that his economic goals still should be met, and state media have described large groups of workers continuing to gather at farms, mining facilities, power stations and construction sites.
Experts say Kim can’t afford to bring the country to a standstill that would unleash further shock on a fragile economy, strained by decades of mismanagement, crippling US-led sanctions over his nuclear weapons ambitions and pandemic border closures.
The virus hasn’t stopped Kim from holding and attending important public events for his leadership.
State media showed him weeping during Saturday’s state funeral for top North Korean military official Hyon Chol Hae, who is believed to have been involved in grooming Kim as a future leader during the rule of his father, Kim Jong Il.