Keep calm and wash hands: North Korean Omicron video wins fans in zero-Covid China
- Public health message says most Omicron patients will have mild symptoms
- Video posted online as Chinese cities pursue mass testing and movement restrictions to stop transmission
The video was uploaded by a reporter with Chinese broadcaster Phoenix TV who said it was produced by state-run Korean Central Television in North Korea.
The video urged people to seek medical attention if they experienced Covid-19 symptoms and said most Omicron patients would have mild symptoms, requiring only outpatient care or treatment at home.
It included illustrations of mask wearing, hand washing, social distancing and disinfection. There was no mention of vaccination.
One person commenting on the video said in Chinese: “It turned out that I underestimated North Korea. This video is based on science and is easy to understand, seeks truth from facts, and does not create panic.”
North Korea is facing its first confirmed Covid-19 outbreak with no known vaccine programme. In all, 42 people had died since late April and at least 296,180 more have had fever symptoms, state news agency KCNA reported on Sunday.
Omicron had been associated with lower disease severity when compared to the Delta variant, according to the World Health Organization.
WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said vaccination remained key to saving lives in the pandemic and preventing long Covid.
The WHO said it supported North Korea in developing a Covid-19 vaccine deployment plan.
Meanwhile, China is facing rising pressure over the prolonged lockdown in Shanghai and the huge social costs of its zero-tolerance policy, including food shortages in the country’s wealthiest city.
In Beijing, for example, residents are required to show Covid-19 test results – which remain valid for just 48 hours – to enter malls, supermarkets, restaurants, hotels, commercial buildings and other public places.
The capital reported 38 new cases on Sunday as of 3pm, with officials saying the fight against Covid-19 was at a stalemate. Residents in the four districts of Chaoyang, Fangshan, Shunyi and Fengtai, would continue to work from home and remain under “closed-loop management”, municipal authorities said.
Throughout the country, authorities reported 1,718 new cases, including 226 symptomatic cases. Both figures were down by more than 10 per cent from a day earlier.
But two officials from provincial-level health commissions have voiced doubts about the country’s zero-Covid policy, medical journal The Lancet reported on Saturday.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said policymakers did not listen to medical expert opinions any more, any deviation from zero-Covid was punished and the policy was not cost-effective.
Earlier this month, President Xi Jinping said China’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak in Shanghai “will stand the test of time” and pledged to fight any attempt to “distort, question and challenge” the country’s policies.
Censors moved quickly to scrub the comments from the Chinese internet, removing a Weibo post on the United Nations account on Wednesday.