While the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates in nearly all countries around the world with over ten million confirmed infections and a rising death toll, Kim Jong-un has recently claimed success over coronavirus in North Korea, stating that the country has no new active cases anymore due to the strict measures taken for control of transmission of the virus during the early days of the crisis.
At a recent meeting with the politburo. Kim Jong-un specifically said that North Korea “prevented the inroad of the malignant virus and maintained a stable situation”. In addition, he claimed that the virus no longer exists in any of the regions of the country and there are no cases left untreated.
On the other hand, most media and health analysts have said that it is highly unlikely that the total number of cases has dropped to a complete zero. It is too difficult to control the coronavirus transmission, keeping in mind it is highly contagious unless that entire population has developed immunity or a vaccine has been created.
Till now, no vaccine has been approved for commercial use in any part of the world. Only China has started testing of a vaccine developed by its own research center but only on people in its military.
For herd immunity to develop in a country, six months is not a long enough time. It can take months or even up to a year for the population of a country to develop immunity to a virus. During the process, the death toll is also very high.
So, how did North Korea, a country which imposed strict restrictions and went into lockdown six months ago, was able to control the virus?
On the politburo meeting on Thursday, Kim Jong-un stated that the success over coronavirus in North Korea was possible due to the efforts of the Party Central Committee, who had devised a six months long anti-epidemic plan.
Hence, now there are no active cases of the infection in the country. However, he added that even though the virus has been controlled, the anti-coronavirus restrictions are likely to remain. The easing of these restrictions is expected to be minimal as North Korea’s neighboring countries still have the virus.
Therefore, easing the anti-epidemic plan means that the virus will enter the country again and it will have another outbreak.
North Korea, in comparison with all other countries, has had one of the strictest lockdowns, which is why is it hard to estimate whether the country has active cases of the infection or not. Unlike other countries, there are no reports on coronavirus in North Korea as the country has been in lockdown since 30th January.
The only source of information regarding the control of coronavirus in North Korea are accounts of the usual life in the country’s cities, which have appeared to be normal, thereby suggesting that the pandemic has indeed been controlled.
North Korea’s early precautions for the pandemic are the main reason the country was able to stop coronavirus transmission to a big extent, according to health experts. However, strict lockdown comes at a big cost.
The country is even more cut off from the rest of the world with stricter border control policies. Lack of trade between North Korea and other countries means that there is likely to be a shortage of many imported products with the local production levels also being considerably low.
While the coronavirus pandemic may not be as bad in North Korea, the strict lockdown can lead to many other difficulties in the future.