North Korea reports a ‘great crisis’ in its Covid response.

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has said that lapses in his country’s anti-pandemic campaign have caused a “great crisis” that posed “grave consequences,” state media reported on Wednesday.

Mr Kim did not clarify whether the incident meant an outbreak of Covid-19 in North Korea, where the authorities until now have claimed to have found no cases of the virus. But state media reported that the incident was serious enough for Kim to convene a meeting of the Political Bureau of his ruling Workers’ Party on Tuesday, during which Kim reshuffled the top party leadership.

Senior officials neglected implementing anti-virus measures and had created “a great crisis in ensuring the security of the state and safety of the people,” Mr Kim said.

Mr Kim mentioned the unspecified incident as an example when he berated party officials for their “ignorance, disability and irresponsibility,” said North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency. During the meeting, a detailed report was made on officials accused of neglecting their duties in fighting the pandemic and improving the economic lives of the people, it said.

It indicated that there would be some “legal” consequences for the officials. The news agency said that some members of the Politburo and its Presidium, as well as some Workers’ Party secretaries, have been replaced. It did not provide further details. In North Korea, all power is concentrated in the monolithic leadership of Mr Kim, and he has frequently reshuffled the party and military elites, holding them responsible for policy failures.

North Korea claims officially to be free of Covid-19, although outside experts remain sceptical, citing the country’s public health system and lack of extensive testing. But North Korea, aware of its vulnerability to epidemics, has also enforced some of the harshest measures against the spread of the virus.

Last year, it created a buffer zone along the border with China, issuing a shoot-to-kill order to stop unauthorised crossings, according to South Korean and US officials. South Korean politicians briefed by their government’s National Intelligence Service last year have said that North Korea executed an official for violating a trade ban imposed to fight the virus.

In July, when a man from South Korea defected to the North, North Korea declared a national emergency for fear he might have brought the virus. But Mr Kim has also shown confidence that at least his inner circles were virus-free, sometimes presiding over meetings of party elites where no one wore masks. During the meeting on Tuesday, Mr Kim urged party officials to double down on his efforts to build a “self-reliant” economy. As North Korea’s economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, Mr Kim has acknowledged that his five-year plan for growth had failed and instructed his officials to wage an “arduous march” through difficult economic times. This month, he warned of a looming food shortage.

The party meeting on Tuesday “suggests that the situation in the country has worsened beyond the capacity of self-reliance,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

“Pyongyang may be setting up a domestic political narrative to allow the acceptance of foreign vaccines and pandemic assistance,” he said. “Kim is likely to blame scapegoats for this incident, purging disloyal government officials and replacing them with others considered more capable.”

The Irish Times

The Irish Times online. Latest news including sport, analysis, business, weather and more from the definitive brand of quality news in Ireland.

https://www.irishtimes.com/

Pandemic Gives Loan Sharks More Prey

Pandemic Gives Loan Sharks More Prey

An increasing number of people are looking for cash quickly to keep their families and businesses afloat but many soon find themselves in over their heads dealing with debt and threats #Indonesia #loanshark

Live: Turkey wildfires - Firefighters work to extinguish Marmaris blaze.

Live: Turkey wildfires - Firefighters work to extinguish Marmaris blaze.

Firefighters work to extinguish flames as wildfires rage in Marmaris. DEADLY wildfires rage in Turkey leaving destruction and chaos in their trail. A severe heatwave has blasted southern Europe - with temperatures rising above 40C. Wildfires have ...

Fully Vaccinated Americans No Longer Need To Quarantine In The U.

Fully Vaccinated Americans No Longer Need To Quarantine In The U.

Americans traveling to the U.K. no longer need to quarantine as long as they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, just weeks after almost all restrictions were lifted in England. NBC News’ Matt Bradley is at Heathrow Airport in London, where the...

Live: White House Holds Press Briefing - NBC News

Live: White House Holds Press Briefing - NBC News

Watch as White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing. » Subscribe to NBC News: » Watch more NBC video: NBC News Digital is a collection of innovative and powerful news brands that deliver compelling, diverse and engaging news stor...

Pork producer issues warning over new California pig law: Initial prices could spike up to 50%.

Pork producer issues warning over new California pig law: Initial prices could spike up to 50%.

Glenn Stolt, president and CEO at Christensen Farms, details the consequences of the new California law, which is expected to be enforced in 2022. Subscribe to Fox News! Watch more Fox News Video: Watch Fox News Channel Live: FOX News Channel (FNC...

Dr. Fauci warns things will get worse as the U.S. marks a troubling new milestone - ABC News

Dr. Fauci warns things will get worse as the U.S. marks a troubling new milestone - ABC News

Dr. Fauci is warning things will get worse as the U.S. marks a troubling new milestone - 100,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day. Plus, life-threatening flash floods and raging wildfires are ravaging parts of the western U.S. #ABCNews #OnLocati...