On Thursday, the country’s supreme leader said North Korea must redouble its efforts to fight Covid-19, despite not officially registering any cases to date, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Friday, as quoted by the Associated Press.
Officials must “bear in mind that tightening epidemic prevention is the task of paramount importance which must not be loosened even a moment,” Kim reportedly told colleagues during a meeting of the Politburo.
He also called for a “further rounding off our style epidemic prevention system,” while highlighting the need to increase material capacity to deal with the virus, according to KCNA. Kim also talked of the need to improve the qualifications of healthcare professionals.
The comments came after UNICEF said on Wednesday that North Korea had rejected an offer of 3 million Sinovac shots distributed via the COVAX vaccine sharing initiative. The UN body said Pyongyang had asked for the lifesaving vaccines to instead be sent to nations with low vaccination rates and surging Covid-19 case numbers.
In July, North Korea rejected a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines. The Institute for National Security Strategy – a South Korean think-tank – suggested that the decision was due to concerns about very rare cases of blood clotting among a small number of the vaccine’s recipients. The 1.9 million AstraZeneca doses would have been enough to fully vaccinate 7.3% of North Korea’s 26 million people.