North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the lifting of severe Covid-19 restrictions imposed earlier in May, as he declared victory over the recent outbreak.
According to an Aug. 11 Reuters report, his sister Kim Yo Jong, an influential figure in the North Korean government, revealed that Kim himself had suffered from a "fever" and blamed South Korea for the outbreak.
A sister's concern
Reuters cited the North Korean state news agency KCNA in reporting Kim Yo Jong as saying that her older brother had suffered from fever symptoms, hinting that he may have been infected.
"Even though he was seriously ill with a high fever, he could not lie down for a moment thinking about the people he had to take care of until the end in the face of the anti-epidemic war."
The younger Kim blamed leaflets and other materials sent over the border from South Korea as the cause of the outbreak, although Reuters did not mention if she provided evidence for this assertion.
Defectors from North Korea who live in the South and supporters have been known to float balloons over the border containing food, money, medicine and anti-North Korean pamphlets.
Kim Yo Jong said that North Korea could no longer ignore the "rubbish" coming in from the south and vowed to "wipe out" the government in Seoul.
"Our countermeasure must be a deadly retaliatory one," she said.
South Korea's Unification Ministry said it regretted the accusations and threats made.
Maximum emergency in May
The "maximum emergency" included a lockdown of cities and counties, workplace isolation by units, and a mobilisation of reserve medical supplies as the Omicron variant ravaged the hermit nation.
North Korea did not report positive Covid-19 cases, possibly due to a lack of testing supplies, and the term "fever" was used instead. By May 17, over a million people had contracted a "fever" and the possibility of a famine was mentioned.
Kim ignored offers of assistance, including vaccines, medical supplies and healthcare personnel from South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol. However, he reportedly reached out to China for help.
A professor of North Korean studies Reuters contacted said that North Korea's announcement could be a signal to China that it is now ready to restart trade.
China's government under Xi Jinping has implemented a strict zero-Covid policy that shows no signs of ending soon.
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