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Kim Jong Un's sister blames South Korean leaflets for North Korea's COVID-19 outbreak

Close up of seated man speaking during meeting.
Kim Jong Un has declared victory over coronavirus, according to state media.(Reuters: KCNA)

Kim Jong Un's sister is blaming a COVID-19 outbreak in North Korea on leaflets from South Korea, according to state media. 

The news came as Mr Kim declared victory over  coronavirus and ordered that restrictions imposed in May be lifted.

North Korea has not revealed how many COVID-19 cases have been found in the country.

However since July 29, the nation has reported no new suspected cases despite international aid organisations saying it has limited testing capabilities.

While lifting the maximum anti-pandemic measures, Mr Kim said North Korea must maintain a "steel-strong anti-epidemic barrier and intensifying the anti-epidemic work until the end of the global health crisis," according to Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Analysts said although the authoritarian North has used the pandemic to tighten social controls, its victory declaration could be a prelude to restoring trade hampered by border lockdowns and other restrictions.

Observers have also said it may clear the way for the North to conduct a nuclear weapon test for the first time since 2017.

North Korea's official death toll of 74 people is an "unprecedented miracle" compared to other countries, KCNA reported.

Instead of confirmed cases, North Korea reported the number of people with fever symptoms.

A person dressed in full personal protective equipment disinfects an aisle in a small grocery store.
Many foreign experts believe the scale of the North Korean outbreak is being under-reported to prevent public unrest.(AP: Jon Chol Jin)

Those daily cases peaked at more than 392,920 on May 15, prompting health experts to warn of an inevitable crisis.

Mr Kim's sister, Kim Yo Jong, said the North Korean leader himself had suffered from fever symptoms, and blamed leaflets from South Korea for causing the outbreak, KCNA reported.

"Even though he was seriously ill with a high fever, he could not lie down for a moment thinking about the people he had to take care of until the end in the face of the anti-epidemic war," she said.

WHO doubtful of North Korea's COVID claims

The World Health Organization (WHO) has cast doubts on North Korea's claims, saying last month it believed the situation there was getting worse, not better, amid an absence of independent data.

North Korea's declaration of victory comes despite no known vaccine rollout in the country. 

Instead, North Korean said it relied on lockdowns, homegrown medicine treatments, and what Mr Kim called the "advantageous Korean-style socialist system".

The North said it was running intensive medical checks nationwide, with daily PCR tests on water collected in borderline areas among the measures.

It also said it has been developing new methods to better detect the virus and its variants, as well as other infectious diseases, such as monkeypox.

Reuters

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