Russia ready to donate Covid-19 vaccine to North Korea

Russia says it will swiftly process any request for vaccination help from North Korea as the country copes with the Covid-19 outbreak.

“The North Korean comrades have well understood Russia’s vaccination activities and experience in dealing with Covid-19,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said today. “If Pyongyang makes a request for vaccination assistance, we will process it quickly.”

The statement was made by Mr Peskov after North Korea’s KCNA news agency said today that about 350,000 people across the country had symptoms of fever since the end of April. North Korea has killed 6 people with fever, including: one case was positive for the Omicron variant.

Medical staff take the temperature of students in Pyongyang, capital of North Korea, June 22, 2021.  Photo: AFP.

Medical staff take the temperature of students in Pyongyang, capital of North Korea, June 22, 2021. Picture: AFP.

It is unclear whether the remaining deaths can be attributed to Covid-19. KCNA reported that health authorities are making efforts to set up a testing, treatment and disinfection system.

Spokesman Kang In-sin for new South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol also said today that Yoon offered to send a vaccine to help North Korea after the country recorded its first death from Covid-19.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki previously said the US had no plans to share a Covid-19 vaccine with North Korea when asked for information that the country was experiencing its first outbreak. Psaki also stressed that North Korea has repeatedly declined to support COVAX, a global Covid-19 vaccine exchange program.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced late last year that it would be shipping essential medical supplies to prevent Covid-19 “for strategic reserve purposes” to North Korea via the port of Dalian in China. North Korea has repeatedly rejected proposals for vaccination assistance from the WHO, China and Russia.

Experts say North Korea, with 25 million people unvaccinated against Covid-19 and limited medical infrastructure, will struggle to deal with a major outbreak. The outbreak could also exacerbate the country’s already difficult food situation, as the lockdown would hamper the “all-out fight” against the drought.

Duc Trung (Corresponding Reuters)