North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, declared “victory” on Thursday over the covid-19 outbreak that affected the country and that, as his sister revealed to the official media, he himself contracted.

Chairing a meeting with health workers and scientists, Kim announced the “victory … in the war against the malignant pandemic disease,” according to the state-run KCNA news agency.

The isolated country, which has enforced strict border closures since the start of the pandemic, announced an outbreak of the omicron variant in the capital Pyongyang in May and activated “a maximum emergency epidemic prevention system.”

North Korea refers to “fever patients” instead of “covid patients” in its reports, apparently due to the poor diagnostic capacity of its health system.

Since July 29, authorities have reported no new cases.

According to KCNA, Kim said that “the victory won by our people is a historic event that once again demonstrates to the world the greatness of our state, the indomitable tenacity of our people and the beautiful national customs that we are proud of.”

At the end of the speech, “the participants let out thunderous cries of ‘hurrah!’ repeatedly, recalling in tears the great deeds and devoted service to the people that (Kim) has done to achieve a brilliant victory that will go down in history,” KCNA said.

In other information from this agency, the leader’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong, revealed that the president himself fell ill during the outbreak.

Kim “suffered from a high fever during the days of this quarantine war, but he couldn’t lie down even for a moment because he thought about the people he was responsible for,” the sister said.

It is the first time that a senior North Korean official has revealed that his leader, whose health is always under close scrutiny by analysts, was infected with the virus.

Kim Yo Jong also blamed the outbreak on South Korea for allowing activists to send propaganda balloons and US dollars across the border, saying these objects carried the virus.

Kim’s sister accused Seoul of a “crime against humanity” and threatened strong retaliation. If the balloons continue, “we will respond not only by eradicating the virus, but also to the South Korean authorities,” she threatened.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry responded Thursday that it was a “baseless claim” and regretted Pyongyang’s “disrespectful and threatening remarks.”

North Korea has registered almost 4.8 million infections since the end of April, with only 74 deaths according to the official balance, leaving a fatality rate of 0.002%, according to KCNA.

The communist regime has one of the worst health systems in the world, with poorly equipped hospitals, few intensive care units and no anti-Covid treatment or vaccines, experts say.

In contrast, South Korea, with a much more advanced health system and a large percentage of the population vaccinated, has a fatality ratio of 0.12%, according to official data.

Analyst Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, interprets Kim’s announcement and his sister’s remarks as a sign that Pyongyang wants to focus on other priorities such as “restarting the economy or carrying out a nuclear test.” .

“Kim Yon Jong’s bellicose rhetoric is troubling not only because he is trying to blame South Korea for the rise of covid, he is also trying to justify North Korea’s upcoming military provocation,” he said.

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