Medical supplies for the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak have begun arriving in North Korea from the World Health Organization, a potential indication that the North is relaxing one of the world’s most stringent pandemic border restrictions in order to accept outside assistance.

A weekly monitoring report from the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the shipping of critical COVID-19 medical supplies via the Chinese port of Dalian has begun, with the supplies intended for “strategic stockpiling and subsequent dispatch” to North Korea.

The WHO Has Begun Shipping COVID Medical Supplies To North Korea

Edwin Salvador, the World Health Organization’s representative in North Korea, said during an email to an Associated Press on Thursday that certain items, including urgent medical kits and medicine, have arrived at the North Korean harbor of Nampo after North Korean officials granted permission for the WHO and other United Nations agencies to ship supplies that were stuck in Dalian, China.

The WHO Has Begun Shipping COVID Medical Supplies To North Korea

Because of this, we were able to send some of our goods to Nampo, including emergency health kits, medications, and emergency aid that would assist critical health services at basic healthcare facilities,” says the organization. “Salvador shared his thoughts. “We have been told that goods from the World Health Organization, as well as supplies from other United Nations organizations, are presently being held in quarantine at the ports.” The North Korean government has claimed that its anti-virus effort is a matter of “national survival,” It has severely limited cross-border travel and commerce over the last two years despite the impact on the country’s already devastating economic situation.

In August, UN human rights examiners demanded that the North Korean government provide clarification on accusations that it taught soldiers to kill on sight any trespassers who crossed its borders in defiance of the country’s economic closure. Despite the fact that North Korea has still yet to disclose a single instance of COVID-19, foreign specialists are skeptical that the country has managed to avoid the disease which has diseased virtually every other country in the globe.

The North has informed the World Health Organization that it has tested 40,700 individuals for the coronavirus until September 23 and that all of the tests have come back negative. According to the WHO study, those who were tried in the previous week comprised 94 individuals who had influenza-like illnesses or other symptoms and 573 healthcare professionals. According to experts, a pandemic in North Korea could be catastrophic, given the country’s inadequate healthcare infrastructure and a chronic shortage of medical supplies.

However, while establishing strict border restrictions, North Korea has not shown the same level of urgency in regards to vaccinations, despite the fact that their mass immunization program has been delayed due to worldwide shortages. 

According to analysts, North Korea may be concerned about external oversight requirements, which would be linked to vaccinations it gets from the outside world if they were to be introduced. Some believe that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has internal political motives for tightening the country’s self-imposed lockdown as he decides to call for unity and tries to consolidate his grip on power while trying to navigate what may be his most challenging period after nearly a decade in power.