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  18 May 2022, 08:21

Kim slams negligent officials over spiralling N. Korea Covid outbreak

 SEOUL, May 18, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the
negligence and laziness of state officials worsened the country's Covid
outbreak, state media reported Wednesday, as the number of known cases
crossed 1.7 million.

The nuclear-armed country reported its first coronavirus cases last week, and
the Omicron variant-fuelled outbreak has since ballooned -- marking the
failure of a two-year blockade maintained since the start of the pandemic.

Chairing a meeting of the ruling party's Politburo on Tuesday, Kim said there
was "immaturity in the state capacity for coping with the crisis" and slammed
the "non-positive attitude, slackness and non-activity of state leading
officials", the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

North Korea recorded 232,880 new cases of "fever" as of Tuesday evening,
bringing the total number to 1.72 million with 62 deaths, KCNA said.

State media reports do not specify how many of the cases and deaths have
tested positive for the coronavirus, but experts say the country would
struggle to test and diagnose on this scale.

At the Tuesday meeting, Kim promised to "arouse the whole Party like an
active volcano" to counter the spread of the virus.

North Korea's leader has put himself front and centre of his country's Covid
response, saying the outbreak is causing "great upheaval" nationwide.

Medicines donated by the Kim family were distributed to North Koreans in
South Hwanghae province, state media said, in a bid to highlight his personal
role in fighting the outbreak.

Nearly 3,000 military medics are taking part in a "24-hour service system to
carry out the delivery and supply of medicines", state media said Wednesday.

North Korea has one of the world's worst healthcare systems, with poorly
equipped hospitals, few intensive care units, and no Covid treatment drugs or
mass testing ability, experts say.

The World Health Organization is "deeply concerned at the risk of further
spread of Covid-19 in the country particularly because the population is
unvaccinated and many have underlying conditions putting them at risk of
severe disease and death," the UN body's chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
told reporters.

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