North Korea’s capital ordered into a 5-day lockdown over unknown illness

On Wednesday, reports came out that North Korea’s capital city Pyongyang has been ordered to undertake a five-day lockdown, due to rising cases of an unspecified respiratory illness. It comes at a time earlier reports this week stated North Korean citizens have been seen panic buying at stories after rumours that they may be placed under quarantine.

NK News, a South Korean media organisation which monitors North Korea has reported the lockdown citing a North Korean Government notice they had seen.

The notice said the illnesses spreading through the city include the common cold, but made no mention of Covid.

Pyongyang residents have been told to stay inside their homes until Sunday, January 29, and the notice also stated that they must submit to temperature checks multiple times a day.

It is currently unknown if other North Korean cities have been placed under lockdown.

On Tuesday, reports from NK News said there was a noticeable build-up in traffic in Pyongyang as people began to panic-buy large amounts of food due to lockdown rumours.

It’s been reported that a familiar occurrence happened in April 2020, when the North Korean Government began to significantly reduce their imports from China.

However, North Korea only acknowledged its first Covid outbreak in May 2022, and claimed 4.77 million people in the country fully recovered while 74 people died, a fatality rate of 0.002 percent which would make North Korea have the lowest death toll in the world.

International experts have doubted North Korea’s claims, as South Korea, which has an advanced healthcare system, reported a fatality rate of 0.12 percent during the pandemic.

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However, North Korean state media declared “victory” over the Covid virus in August 2022.

At the time, state media declared North Korea had entered a phase of “stability” in August and added that the country would begin to “redouble efforts to maintain perfection in the execution of state anti-epidemic policies”.

During the 2022 lockdown, North Korean authorities revealed that residents were “escaping from isolation” to panic buy medicine due to fears of medicine shortages, and said that people were “stampeding to pharmacies”.

North Korean authorities issued death penalty warnings and banishments from Pyongyang for innocent family members to people caught spreading “rumours” about the Covid-19 outbreak or selling medicine on the black market.

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It has been reported that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has scheduled a military parade for February 8 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Korean People’s Army, and thousands of people both citizens and military personnel appear to have been practising for the event.

NK News analysed satellite imagery which showed North Korean soldiers forming the numbers “75”, “and “military at Pyongyang’s Mirim parade training base.

A citizen’s training event for the event appeared to take place in Kim Il Sung Square on Saturday, as satellite imagery showed the formation of the number “2” and 8”, which seems to be the date of the parade.

The state media has yet to officially announce the event, and it is unknown if the latest lockdown will affect the parade.

On Monday, North Korean state television also praised the country’s success in how they handled the Covid pandemic in 2022 and said the response was a “miracle on this planet” for such an “unprecedented event” in North Korea’s history.