South Korea has signalled its readiness to assist North Korea in combatting the country’s first official coronavirus outbreak, after state media in the North reported six deaths from the virus.
South Korean President, Yoon Suk Yeol offered to supply North Korea with vaccines and other medical supplies, the presidential office in Seoul said on Friday.
A spokesman for Yoon said the president wanted to discuss details of the aid with North Korea.
It was initially unclear whether Pyongyang had asked Seoul for help or whether the two sides were already in touch over the issue.
North Korea reported its first COVID-19 death on Friday, a day after first acknowledging an outbreak of the virus.
State news agency KCNA later reported six deaths from a wave of fast-spreading fever, one of whom had tested positive for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
According to KCNA, over 350,000 people came down with a fever since the start of April, adding that at least 162,200 of them had since “healed completely.’’
The agency said the cause of the fever couldn’t be identified and said it spread explosively nationwide.
It remained unclear how many people had been infected with the coronavirus.
Observers said the numbers indicated the potential scale of the country’s virus outbreak.
Experts had long warned that North Korea would have difficulty coping with a major outbreak because of the inadequacies of its health system.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered a nationwide lockdown on Thursday, with all cities to be sealed off.
It was unclear how members of the public would obtain essential goods while ordered to stay home.
Large parts of the population of nearly 26 million people were undernourished, according to the UN.
Kim visited the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters to learn about the nationwide spread of COVID-19 after the ruling Workers’ Party raised the country’s pandemic emergency level to its highest level.
Kim criticised vulnerabilities in the existing epidemic prevention system, saying all work and production sites, as well as residential units, must be isolated from each other.
Pyongyang reported its first official coronavirus infections on Thursday but did not divulge the caseload.
On Friday, KCNA reported that 18,000 people recorded a fever on Thursday alone, while up to 187,800 people were in isolation and receiving treatment.
Until Thursday, North Korea had not reported a single coronavirus infection to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva, having closed its borders very early in the pandemic. (dpa/NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Cecilia Odey/Chioma Ugboma