North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urged officials to maintain “maximum alert” against the coronavirus pandemic, criticising unspecified complacencies in the country's anti-virus campaign that he said risked “unimaginable and irretrievable crisis.”
Despite the warnings, state media said Friday that Kim reaffirmed government claims that there hasn't been a single case of COVID-19 in North Korea.
Kim told a ruling party meeting that the country has “thoroughly prevented the inroad of the malignant virus and maintained stable anti-epidemic situation despite the worldwide health crisis.”
The North's claim of being COVID-19 free has been questioned by outside experts, who say a major outbreak in the country could possibly have dire consequences because of its chronic lack of medical supplies and poor health care infrastructure.
Describing its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence,” the country has shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned tourists, intensified screening at entry points and mobilized tens of thousands of health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms.
Experts say the country's self-imposed lockdown is also hurting an economy already battered by stringent US-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programme.