The US strongly supports providing Covid-19 vaccines to North Korea, a State Department spokesperson said and urged Pyongyang to work with the international community to inoculate its citizens against the virus.
The remarks come shortly after North Korea said some 18,000 people with fever were identified on Thursday alone. It also said six people died on the day, with one of them testing positive for the Omicron variant of Covid.
“We note the media reports regarding the outbreak of Covid-19 in the DPRK,” the Department spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency in an email, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“We are concerned about how this might affect the North Korean people and continue to support the provision of vaccines to the DPRK,” the spokesperson added.
North Korea issued its first-ever report of a Covid-19 case on Wednesday.
The country on Thursday said more than 350,000 people have been identified with a fever in a short span of time since late April.
The State Department spokesperson said Washington “strongly supports and encourages the efforts of US and international aid and health organisations in seeking to prevent and contain the spread of Covid-19 in the DPRK and to provide other forms of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable groups in the country”.
The spokesperson urged Pyongyang to work with such organisations to quickly vaccinate its population.
North Korea has so far refused to accept millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccine proposed in the COVAX global distribution programme, as it had claimed to be coronavirus-free, with strict border controls in place over the past two years against the pandemic.