More than two years into the coronavirus pandemic, North Korea on Thursday admitted to its first case of COVID-19, declaring it a "most serious national emergency."
North Korea said until Thursday that it had zero coronavirus cases, a claim at which experts have scoffed. The communist dictatorship was already in an extreme lockdown when state media reported that tests taken Sunday showed a group of people with the BA.2 subvariant.
The Communist Party's powerful politburo blamed "epidemic prevention sectors" for causing the outbreak through "carelessness, relaxation, irresponsibility, and inefficiency," reported South Korea-based website NK News.
North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un ordered an even stricter lockdown in response, leaving residents of the capital city of Pyongyang "scrambling to get home," NK News reported.
Kim has repeatedly rejected Western nations' offers of millions of doses of the coronavirus vaccine, even as his lockdown policies have compounded the country's drastic food shortage.
North Korea is probably admitting to the outbreak because it "knows that the world would find out about this sooner or later," North Korea expert Go Myong-Hyun told the Washington Post.
The COVID-19 report broke on the same day that North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles, its latest attempt at saber-rattling.