North Korea lifts mask mandate, says state media

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North Korea lifts mask mandate, says state media

SEOUL : North Korea lifted a mask mandate and relaxed other virus restrictions, state media said on Saturday after Kim Jong Un declared victory over COVID 19.

The announcement comes after Pyongyang blamed Seoul for causing the COVID 19 outbreak in the North and threatened to wipe out the South Korean authorities if necessary.

The country's public health crisis was completely defused and its whole territory was turned into a clean one free of the malignant virus in the shortest period reported by Pyongyang's official Korea Central News Agency KCNA.

The step for mandatory mask-wearing was lifted in all areas except frontline areas and borderline cities and counties, because the whole country was turned into an epidemic-free zone, KCNA said.

North Korea declared a shining victory over COVID - 19 earlier this week, just months after announcing its first cases in May.

Social distancing and other anti-virus measures were lifted except for border regions.

People with symptoms of respiratory disease were recommended to wear masks and North Koreans were urged to remain vigilant against abnormal things - apparently referring to propaganda leaflets from the South.

South Korean activists have flown balloons carrying propaganda leaflets and dollars over the border, despite a ban that took effect in 2021, which the North has protested against.

Kim Jong Un, the powerful sister of Kim Jong Un, blamed these activities for the North's COVID 19 outbreak, vowing to retaliate against Seoul.

Kim Yo Jong revealed that the top leader had fallen ill during the outbreak and suffered from a high fever. North Korea has recorded nearly 4.8 million fever cases since late April, with just 74 deaths, according to KCNA.

Experts, including the World Health Organization, have long been questioned about Pyongyang's COVID 19 statistics and claims to have brought the outbreak under control.

North Korea has one of the world's worst healthcare systems, with poorly equipped hospitals and few intensive care units, according to experts.

It is not believed to have vaccinated any of its 26 million population, although it may have received some vaccine from China, according to Seoul-based specialist site NK News.