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The Guardian view on low Covid vaccination rates: not just North Korea | Editorial

Pyongyang has left its people highly vulnerable to this outbreak. But rich countries have a responsibility for the lack of protection in other places

When Covid-19 first emerged, the “Hermit Kingdom” lived up to its nickname – shutting its borders in January 2020, long before most of the world had taken real heed of the disease spreading in China. With healthcare already on its knees and a malnourished population, North Korea was exceptionally badly placed to cope with any serious outbreak of illness.

For more than two years, it insisted that it had no cases whatsoever. Then, last week, it announced its first cases, of Omicron. The country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, warned of “great turmoil”. Now it has reported almost 2m cases of unspecified “fever” – probably because it can’t test for the virus – with 741,000 still being treated, and 63 deaths. Mr Kim, due to celebrate his 10th anniversary in power this year, has blamed officials for an “immature” response. But underlings can hardly be blamed. Closing the country off for so long, when it is heavily dependent on China and ordinary people were already struggling to survive, has left many in even direr straits. Yet the leadership failed to use the time to vaccinate the population, ignoring offers of doses from the Covax pooling scheme. For years, it has impoverished its people and allowed healthcare to deteriorate, while pouring money into a weapons programme, the chief function of which is to safeguard the regime. Within hours of announcing the Covid outbreak, the country had launched yet another missile test.

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Read the original article at The Guardian

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