SEUL – An independent UN human rights investigator in North Korea has called on the international community to provide 60 million doses of vaccine against COVID-19 to an isolated authoritarian nation that has recently shown signs of mitigating one of the world’s most restrictive pandemic borders. closure.
Thomas Ohea Quintana said Wednesday that those doses will be enough to vaccinate North Korea’s population of more than 25 million people at least twice. He said the footage may encourage Pyongyang’s leadership to be more open after the country’s self-government over the past two years has created problems for outside observers, aid groups and diplomats.
The move could be “the key to opening (North) Korea’s border and resuming its engagement with the international community and bringing it out of isolation,” Quintana told a news conference in Seoul on Wednesday.
It is unclear whether Quintana’s plan is feasible. The North has so far avoided the millions of images offered by the UN-supported COVAX distribution program, perhaps because they come with international oversight requirements. Quintana has offered to promise North Korea 60 million doses in advance because the country may not want to receive limited volumes in stages.
In recent weeks, North Korea has partially opened up rail freight with its ally China, which seems in line with leader Kim Jong Un’s call for a more “scientific” response to viruses.
The rediscovery shows that North Korea is exploring more sustainable ways to combat the virus threat, which could last for years, and it could also give insight into North Korea’s vaccine strategy after a year-long delay in its mass immunization program.
Experts say the North can turn to China and Russia for help to provide regular tests and vaccinations for workers and military in border areas where access from other regions is severely restricted.
North Korea continues to claim to have a perfect record for keeping COVID-19 on its territory – a statement that raises all doubts. But closing the border to almost all trade and visitors for two years shocked the economy even more, which had already been damaged by decades of mismanagement and US-led sanctions over Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Quintana was one of the UN investigators who jointly sent a letter to the North Korean government last August asking him to clarify whether he had ordered troops to shoot on the spot all violators crossing the country’s northern border in violation of the country’s pandemic. Midnight has not publicly commented on the matter.
In its latest report by the World Health Organization, North Korea said it had tested more than 54,180 people for coronavirus as of Feb. 3, but all tests were negative.
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