North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has praised his country's "shining success" in holding off the coronavirus epidemic, according to state-run KCNA news agency. But the border with China is to remain closed, suggesting that Pyongyang is worried about a second wave of the virus.
North Korean state media showed Kim Jong-un, the chairman of the communist state’s Worker’s Party (KWP), addressing the politburo.
According to the official Worker’s Daily (Rodong Sinmun,) Kim analysed six months of “national emergency anti-epidemic work” which had prevented “inroads” into the country by what he called the “malignant contagious virus,” avoiding the official designation of Covid-19, established by the World Health Organisation.
“Shining success” was achieved by the “far-sighted leadership of the Central Committee” which had kept the virus in check, in spite of “the worldwide health crisis”.
"Inattention and onlooking"
Yet not all is well, Kim noted, sharply criticising “inattention, onlooking and chronic attitude” which are becoming “prevalent among officials” who were violating “rules of the emergency anti-epidemic work”.
Pyongyang’s health authorities have never published figures indicating the rate of contamination or the number of casualties caused by Covid-19.
But the threat is bad enough for Kim to keep his country's 1,420 km border with China closed and the Supreme Leader has warned that lifting lockdown measures could result in an "unimaginable and irretrievable crisis".
Malignant contagious disease
He cautioned against any "self-complacency or relaxation", calling for stricter anti-epidemic efforts while "re-infection and re-expansion of the malignant contagious disease persists in neighbouring countries".
South Korea is currently recording between 40 and 60 cases a day, while China saw a surge of infections in Beijing last month.
Kim's comments suggest that North Korea will maintain its self-imposed blockade, which has also hit trade with China, its key backer and aid provider.
Several embassies in Pyongyang have temporarily closed as they have been unable to bring in supplies, money or staff.
Under the current rules, those arriving in North Korea must spend 30 days in strict quarantine. Diplomats and analysts believe the border could remain closed for the rest of the year.