Was North Korea’s military parade a superspreader event?

Was North Korea’s military parade a superspreader event?

Was North Korea’s military parade a superspreader event?

Was North Korea’s military parade a superspreader event?

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It was supposed to be a triumphant display of North Korea’s military might, but experts think a massive military parade to commemorate the army’s founding may have accidentally disseminated Covid-19 over the country.

North Korea acknowledged its first-ever coronavirus death on Friday, a day after admitting to Omicron cases and said tens of thousands of people had been isolated after a fever “explosively spread nationwide from late April.”

On April 25, North Korea held a spectacular military parade in Pyongyang to commemorate the army’s founding anniversary.

Thousands of people gathered in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung square uncovered and not socially separated, to see rows of soldiers goose-step by and applaud as massive rockets flew by, according to footage broadcast on official television.

The current Covid-19 outbreak is “closely linked to the April 25 parade,” Hong Min, a researcher at the Seoul-based Korea Institute for National Unification told AFP.

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“More than 20,000 people were preparing for the parade for two months prior to the event and stayed on in the capital for photo ops with Kim Jong Un,” he said.

Kim’s regime only appears to have “realized the gravity” of the situation belatedly and carried out Covid-19 testing after parade participants returned to their districts.

“Holding a military parade attended by a large crowd, when Omicron was raging in neighboring China, shows Pyongyang was overconfident in their capabilities to fight and prevent the virus,” said Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute.

– Not their first parade –
North Korea was one of the first countries to close its borders in January 2020 after the virus first emerged in neighboring China.

Its stringent isolation regimen appeared to keep Covid at bay at first, with no cases reported for two years — though some specialists doubt this claim.

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Pyongyang even had a night-time military parade in September 2021 with no reported consequences, despite images showing participants wearing masks.

However, observers say that North Korea’s internal guard has loosened over time, with official media reporting on anti-epidemic efforts more infrequent.

The flow of persons and products into and out of China “was largely limited” during the time of the 2021 march, according to Yang Moo-jin, a lecturer at the University of North Korean Studies.

But earlier this year, North Korea briefly eased its near-total lockdown of cross-border trade with China — likely the root cause of the current Omicron outbreak, he said.

“The virus may have entered North Korea via three different routes: railroads, shipping, and smuggling,” he said.

“The point is it came from China.”

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