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SEOUL (Reuters) – Leader Kim Jong Un has ordered North Korea’s military to stabilize the distribution of COVID-19 drugs in the capital, Pyongyang, amid the battle against the country’s first confirmed outbreak of the disease. , announced the official media.
The North last week acknowledged an “explosive” outbreak for the first time, with experts warning it could wreak havoc in a country with limited medical supplies and no vaccination programme.
State-purchased drugs were not reaching people in a timely and accurate manner, Kim said at an emergency politburo meeting on Sunday, before heading to pharmacies near the capital’s Taedong River. , the official KCNA news agency said.
Kim ordered the immediate deployment of “strong forces” from the army’s medical corps to “stabilize the supply of medicine in Pyongyang city”, he added.
Although authorities ordered the distribution of national drug supplies, pharmacies were not well equipped to carry out their duties smoothly, Kim added, according to the agency.
Among their shortcomings were the lack of proper storage of medicines other than display cases, while vendors were not equipped with proper hygienic clothing and the hygiene of their surroundings was below standard, the leader said.
He criticized the “irresponsible” attitude, organization and execution of work by the cabinet and the public health sector, he added.
Neighboring South Korea will spare no effort to help the North fight its epidemic, President Yoon Suk-yeol told parliament on Monday, saying he was ready to provide COVID-19 vaccines and other medical aid. if Pyongyang agrees.
South Korea’s unification ministry has offered to hold working-level talks with North Korea on offering support to its neighbor, which is battling its first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak, the ministry said Monday.
The ministry, responsible for maintaining relations between the two nations, said it had expressed willingness to provide medicines, vaccines to test kits, as well as technical cooperation, based on the experience of the South. regarding quarantine.
The number of people with fever in North Korea stood at 1,213,550, with 50 deaths on Sunday, after KCNA reported 392,920 more fever cases and eight more deaths. He did not specify how many suspected infections had tested positive for COVID-19.
The North has blamed a large number of deaths on people “negligent in taking medication” due to a lack of knowledge about the omicron variant of the coronavirus and its correct treatment.