North Korea blames Covid outbreak on 'alien things' and balloons from South

1 July 2022, 10:45

North Korea has blamed its Covid outbreak on 'alien things' and balloons coming from South Korea.
North Korea has blamed its Covid outbreak on 'alien things' and balloons coming from South Korea. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

North Korea has blamed "alien things" coming from its southern border for causing an outbreak of coronavirus.

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The highly questionable claim appeared to be an attempt to hold South Korea responsible amid increasing tensions.

The state media report said North Korea had found infection clusters in the town of Ipho near the southeastern border and that some Ipho residents with feverish symptoms travelled to Pyongyang.

The centre said an 18-year-old soldier and a five-year-old had contact with "alien things" in the town in early April and later tested positive for the Omicron variant.

In what it called "an emergency instruction", the epidemic prevention centre ordered officials to "to vigilantly deal with alien things coming by wind and other climate phenomena and balloons" along the border and trace their sources to the last.

It also stressed that anyone finding "alien things" must notify authorities immediately so they could be removed.

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Members of Fighters for Free North Korea, an organization of defectors from North Korea, send balloons carrying anti-North leaflets across the border from the South Korean border city of Paju.
Members of Fighters for Free North Korea, an organization of defectors from North Korea, send balloons carrying anti-North leaflets across the border from the South Korean border city of Paju. Picture: Alamy

The reports did not specify what the "alien things" were. But laying the blame on things flown across the border likely is a way to repeat its objections to the ballooning activities of North Korean defectors and activists in South Korea.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said there was no chance South Korean balloons might have spread the virus to North Korea.

Activists for years have flown balloons across the border to distribute propaganda leaflets critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and North Korea has often expressed fury at the activists and at South Korea's leadership for not stopping them.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Picture: Alamy

After maintaining a widely disputed claim to be coronavirus-free for more than two years, North Korea on May 12 admitted to the Covid-19 outbreak, saying an unspecified number of people in Pyongyang tested positive for the omicron variant.

North Korea has since reported about 4.7 million fever cases out of its 26 million population but only identified a fraction of them as Covid-19.

It says 73 people have died, an extremely low fatality rate. Both figures are believed to be manipulated by North Korea to keep its people vigilant against the virus and prevent any political damage to Kim.

North Korea reported 4,570 more people with fever symptoms on Friday, with the total number of fever patients recorded since late April at 4.74 million.

Pyongyang has been announcing the number of fever patients daily without specifying whether they had contracted COVID, apparently due to a lack of testing kits.

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