North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has declared victory in the battle against the novel coronavirus and ordered a lifting of its maximum anti-epidemic measures imposed in May, state media KCNA said on Thursday, APA reports.
North Korea has not revealed how many confirmed infections of the virus it has found, but since July 29 it has reported no new suspected cases with what international aid organisations say are limited testing capabilities.
Some experts believe North Korea has manipulated the scale of the outbreak to help Kim maintain absolute control of the country amid mounting economic difficulties.
Kim said North Korea's official death rate of 74 people is an "unprecedented miracle" compared to other countries, KCNA reported.
Its declaration of victory comes despite rolling out no known vaccine programme. Instead, the country says it relied on lockdowns, homegrown medicine treatments, and what Kim called the "advantageous Korean-style socialist system."
He ordered the lifting of maximum anti-pandemic measures, but said that North Korea must maintain a "steel-strong anti-epidemic barrier and intensifying the anti-epidemic work until the end of the global health crisis."
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency also reported Thursday that Kim’s sister said her brother had suffered a fever and blamed the North Korean outbreak on leaflets flown from across the border from South Korea, while warning of deadly retaliation.
They believe the victory statement signals Kim's aim to move to other priorities but are concerned his sister's remarks portend a provocation.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, issued a statement expressing strong regret over North Korea’s “extremely disrespectful and threatening comments” that were based on “ridiculous claims” about the source of its infections.