Health

Why Omicron scares North Korea (which is experiencing the first Covid outbreak) – Corriere.it

from Silvia Turin

Concerns about the extent of the infection: the health system is also deficient. The zero-Covid policy deemed ineffective, especially with a variant as contagious as Omicron 2

North Korea has imposed a lockdown to control its own first outbreak of Covid
recognized after, for more than two years, the country had declared that it had managed to keep the virus outside its borders. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un chaired the Politburo emergency meeting against the outbreak wearing a blue surgical mask for the first time.

Covid, the latest news today

The situation

State media said tests on samples collected Sunday from an unspecified number of people with fever in the capital, Pyongyang, confirmed the infection by the Omicron BA.2 variant (the most widespread in the world)
and local broadcasting. The leader Kim Jong-un spoke of a serious national emergency and imposed that all commercial and production activities be organized so that each work unit is isolated to prevent the spread of the infection, the closed-loop strategy used in China. From Pyongyang arrive images of people wearing masks, temperature checks, sanitization in shops and on the streets. According to testimony from an Associated Press photographer on the South Korean side of the border, it does not appear that workers have been prevented from exiting. North Korea in the rice planting season and a prolonged blockade could worsen the food shortage if people are kept away from the fields.
The first alarm reports had come from border with China at the end of April, when the Pyongyang government was forced to cut off cross-border rail links to stem the wave of infections in Chinese territory, in the city of Dandong, the main gateway for North Korean goods to China.

The dangers for the population

The extent of the outbreak was not disclosed, but analysts fear it is more serious than announced and it is assumed that it could have very serious consequences for the country given it deficient state of the national health systemthe widespread malnutrition and the fact that the 26 million inhabitants substantially are not vaccinated. In fact, the North Korean government rejected vaccines offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program: it reportedly returned nearly two million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines and nearly three million doses of Sinovac vaccines.

Unsustainable zero-Covid policy

North Korea has always adopted politics zero-Covid of China and other Asian countries, a policy just branded by the World Health Organization (WHO) as unsustainable (we talked about it HERE
): While the first coronavirus could be contained with lockdowns, the Omicron variant cannot be stopped or canceled, as the experience of the rest of the world shows, the WHO explained, referring to the formidable contagiousness of BA.2 and addressing the authorities Chinese, which replied citing a study by researchers in Shanghai which claims that the virus, if allowed to circulate, would cause (between May and July) the death of 1.6 million people.
This would also happen in North Korea, because even if the Omicron variant appears to be less lethal of many previous strains of the virus, this one appearance is essentially based on the high levels of immunity reached by the population of many Western countries and on the protection offered by vaccines widely spread in those areas. The same lethality of Omicron is not at all low in populations still little reached by the virus, virgins, as seen recently in Hong Kong, and as it could be for North Korea (talked about in a scientific article just published in the NEJM magazine).
North Korea also has a capacity of limited testingmaking it difficult for health officials to detect and counter the actual spread of the virus.

May 12, 2022 (change May 12, 2022 | 19:48)

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