Kim said at a meeting of top politicians that they prevented the new coronavirus from invading most of the closed country, North Korean state media reported.
“We have thoroughly prevented the onset of the malignant virus and maintained a stable anti-epidemic situation despite the global health crisis, which is a great success,” the state-run KCNA news agency reported on Friday.
However, Kim also punished officials for complaining because the global health crisis has not yet ended.
“Rapid mitigation of anti-epidemic measures will result in an unimaginable and irreversible crisis,” Kim said, according to the report.
Pictures released by KCNA at the meeting showed Kim presiding over dozens of officials who did not seem to practice social distancing. None are shown in masks.
But diplomatic sources based in Pyongyang said on the streets that everyone wears masks and practices some form of social distancing. Life in the North Korean capital has largely returned to normal, they said, and construction sites, shops and hotels are now open. Schools there have reopened, a source said.
Sources said North Korean officials appear to be convinced the virus is under control, at least in Pyongyang, although one source said he had not heard of anyone being tested.
The meeting was Kim’s first public appearance in weeks. The young North Korean leader has kept a very hectic schedule full of public events in recent years, but has maintained a surprisingly weak profile in the last three months.
More than 10.8 million people worldwide have contracted the new coronavirus, and more than half a million have died from the effects of the virus. Every East Asian country has reported at least one case of Covid-19 – except North Korea.
Public health experts say it is very unlikely that the virus has not entered the country to some extent. One of the most likely scenarios the virus may have entered across the northern border with China, where smuggling is common. Coroviral clusters were identified in northeast China, including one in Jilin Province in May.
Experts believe North Korea would be particularly vulnerable to the Covid-19 epidemic because of its poor health infrastructure.
But the country is also pretty good at preventing the virus from penetrating its borders. North Korea stopped allowing people to enter when a pandemic broke out a few months ago, and people inside the country do not enjoy freedom of movement at will. Defectors say the average North Korean is not allowed to travel far from home without government approval.
A representative of the World Health Organization in North Korea told NK News that 922 people in the country were tested for the virus, and all tested for negative effects. The population of North Korea probably has about 25 million, although the exact number is unclear because Pyongyang does not make demographic data available to the public.