S.Korea plans for talks with N.Korea over Covid-19 support
South Korea and North Korea are to enhance cooperation in the health sector as Pyongyang undergoes a massive outbreak following over two years of no registered Covid-19 cases.
South Korea and North Korea are set to hold talks next week to discuss Covid-19 relief measures that Seoul can offer Pyongyang in an effort to curb the spread of the disease within the country, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on Sunday, citing an unnamed government official.
North Korea confirmed on Thursday its first-ever outbreak of Covid-19, with state media declaring it a "severe national emergency incident," more than two years after the pandemic ravaged the globe.
The official KCNA news agency reported that samples taken from patients sick with a fever in Pyongyang on Sunday were "consistent with" the virus' highly transmissible Omicron BA.2 variant.
North Korea confirmed Saturday more than 296,000 new patients with fever and over 15 dead, bringing up the total number of patients to 820,000.
"The government is actively reviewing to officially propose to North Korea holding a working-level meeting at the beginning of the week," Yonhap quoted a senior South Korean official as saying. He revealed that the proposal would be officially presented after Seoul conducts consultations with relevant ministers.
The news agency reported that newly elected South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol had offered to supply his neighbors to the north with Covid-19 vaccines and medical equipment, marking a new level of cooperation between the two countries.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered the implementation of an emergency "anti-epidemic system of the highest order", imposing a lockdown in all cities and counties to curb the spread of the virus and eradicate the source of the infection at the soonest time possible.
Kim chaired on Thursday a meeting with senior government officials to discuss the response measures after Pyongyang recorded its first Omicron case on May 8. He went on to order a strict nationwide lockdown and mobilization of the epidemic prevention system.
North Korea has been behind a rigid self-imposed coronavirus blockade since early 2020 as the virus emerged to protect itself from the pandemic.
Pyongyang had not confirmed a single case of coronavirus until Thursday after the World Health Organization reported that, by the end of 2020, North Korea has conducted 13,259 Covid-19 tests, all of which came back negative.
North Korea announced Friday its first Covid-19 deaths amid an "explosive" outbreak of fever within the country.
Six people have died so far, with experts asserting the belief that none - or very few - of the country's 26 million people have been immunized.