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Omicron Won’t Be Mild In North Korea But Kim Jong Un May Not Call For Help

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, visits a pharmacy in Pyongyang, North Korea as the nation faces a major shortage of Covid-19 tests, vaccines and antivirals (Image: AP Photo)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, visits a pharmacy in Pyongyang, North Korea as the nation faces a major shortage of Covid-19 tests, vaccines and antivirals (Image: AP Photo)

Kim Jong Un will see vaccine and medical donations as tools the western world will be using to interfere in North Korea's internal affairs.

North Korea finally let Omicron invade its fortress. Over the last two years as the world was battling the Covid-19 pandemic and continues to do so, North Korea was busy modernizing its army and testing ballistic missiles.

North Korea’s so-called supreme leader Kim Jong Un even went as far to say that North Korea did not register a single case of Covid-19 over the past two years.

As of Monday, more than 50 people died and more than 564,860 remain under medical treatment and at least 1,213,550 cases of ‘fever’ are recorded.

North Korea’s Covid fight faces quite a few setbacks as before mounting a response there are several factors which indicate that this will be an uphill battle (or as the world may think).

There is one new development that needs to be mentioned – the outbreak is large enough that the Kim Jong Un regime is forced to open up about it.

Also, Rodong Simun, the Workers’ Party organ, said that the government is taking the steps to address the public health emergency.

Firstly, Omicron will not be mild for North Korea. If reports are to be believed, then Omicron may be the first Covid variant to infect the population – which does not have immunity developed through past infections.

The other challenge it faces is that unlike China it does not have the ability to conduct mass-testing.

Pyongyang is dealing with its Covid-19 outbreak with no vaccines, antiviral treatment drugs or mass-testing capacity.

In most nations, people were protected from Omicron due to immunity gained via vaccination and prior infections.

“North Korea reportedly has no circulation of previous strains, which means its entire population is susceptible,” infectious disease professor Dr. Kim Woo-joo of Korea University told The Korea Herald.

He further pointed out that limited health care services, a large vulnerable population and no access to key resources like vaccines and antivirals sets the stage for disastrous outcomes.

International Vaccine Institute’s director-general Dr. Jerome Kim said that greater risk of hospitalizations and deaths exist as the population is also suffering from malnutrition.

Food shortages have been reported in North Korea since late last year.

Others also pointed out the ability of North Koreans to endure pain – which means that Kim Jong Un is unlikely to accept vaccines and medicines from other nations since it would hurt his pride.

For protecting the image of Kim Jong Un, it is likely that North Koreans will pay the price.

Leif-Eric Easley, international studies professor of Ewha Womans University told The Korea Herald that Kim Jong Un is unlikely to project weakness at the world stage. It is also possible that he may want ‘three shots for everyone rather than agreeing to shipments of different vaccines in stages’.

North Korea has repeatedly refused vaccines from COVAX and experts signal that world bodies may have to tailor the vaccine assistance in a manner that saves the Kim regime’s face.

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first published:May 16, 2022, 08:00 IST