North Korea has lifted a mask mandate and eased other virus restrictions, state media said on Saturday, days after leader Kim Jong Un declared a “victory” over COVID-19.
The announcement comes after Pyongyang earlier this week blamed Seoul for the COVID-19 outbreak in the north and threatened to “wipe out” South Korean officials if necessary.
Pyongyang’s official Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that virus restrictions were eased because “the country’s public health crisis was completely eradicated and its entire region was protected from the deadly virus in the shortest possible time.” was freed.”
“The move to compulsorily wear a mask was removed in all areas except border areas and border towns and counties, noting that the entire country was converted into a pandemic-free zone,” the KCNA said.
North Korea declared a “shining victory” over Covid earlier this week, just months after announcing its first cases in May.
Social distancing and other anti-virus measures were also lifted except in border areas.
But people with symptoms of the respiratory illness were advised to wear masks and North Koreans were urged to “be vigilant” against “unusual things” – apparently referring to propaganda leaflets from the South.
South Korean activists have for years ballooned the border carrying propaganda leaflets and dollars, despite the ban taking effect in 2021, which the North has long opposed.
Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, on Wednesday vowed “deadly” retaliation against Seoul, blaming these activities for the North’s Covid outbreak.
Kim Yo Jong also revealed that the top leader himself had fallen ill during the outbreak and was suffering from a “high fever”.
According to KCNA, North Korea has recorded about 4.8 million “fever” cases – while only identifying a fraction of those as COVID – since the end of April, with only 74 deaths.
Experts including the World Health Organization have long questioned Pyongyang’s COVID figures, claiming it has brought the outbreak under control.
Experts say North Korea has the world’s worst health care system, with poorly equipped hospitals and few intensive care units.
It is not thought that any of its 26 million population has been vaccinated, although it may have received some vaccines from China, Seoul-based specialist site NK News has reported.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)