NORTH KOREA,GERMANY,US: North Korea officially confirmed its first COVID-19 outbreak on Thursday and ordered a national lock down, with state media reporting a sub-variant of the highly transmissible Omicron virus had been detected in the city of Pyongyang.
“There has been the biggest emergency incident in the country, with a hole in our emergency quarantine front, that has been kept safely over the past two years and three months since February 2020,” the official KCNA news agency said.
The report said people in Pyongyang had contracted the Omicron variant, without providing details on case numbers or possible sources of infection. The samples of the infected people were collected on May 8, it said.
The report was published as the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un chaired a Workers’ Party meeting to discuss responses to the first outbreak of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, the European Union will no longer recommend medical masks be worn at airports and on planes starting next week amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the bloc, though member states can still require them, officials said Wednesday.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it hoped the joint decision, made with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, would mark “a big step forward in the normalization of air travel” for passengers and crews.
Meanwhile,the United States has now recorded more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths, according to a Reuters tally, crossing a once-unthinkable milestone about two years after the first cases upended everyday life and quickly transformed it.
The 1 million mark is a stark reminder of the staggering grief and loss caused by the pandemic even as the threat posed by the virus wanes in the minds of many people. It represents about one death for every 327 Americans, or more than the entire population of San Francisco or Seattle. By the time the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, the virus had claimed 36 lives in the United States. In the months that followed, the deadly virus spread like wildfire, finding fertile ground in densely populated urban areas such as New York City and then reaching every corner of the country.
By June 2020, the US death toll had surpassed the total of the country’s military deaths in World War I and it would exceed the American military losses of War World II by January 2021 when more than 405,000 deaths were recorded.
The disease has left few places on Earth untouched, with 6.7 million confirmed deaths globally. The true toll, including those who died of COVID-19 as well as those who perished as an indirect result of the outbreak, is likely closer to 15 million, the WHO said.
– THE INDIAN EXPRESS, GULF NEWS, THE STRAITS TIMES