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North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un declared “victory” over the coronavirus on Thursday, even as his sister announced the North Korean leader suffered from a “high fever” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kim blamed the outbreak on South Korea and vowed to retaliate against their neighbor. His sister, Kim Yo Jong, did not outright confirm that her brother had the virus, but said he was “seriously ill” and had a “high fever.”
“Even though he was seriously ill with a high fever, he could not lie down for a moment thinking about the people he had to take care of until the end in the face of the anti-epidemic war,” she said on North Korean television.
North Korea has never provided data for how many of its citizens were infected with COVID. It has instead relied on the daily number of patients with a fever, which peaked at 47.7 million, according to Reuters.
Yo Jong cited South Korean pamphlets and propaganda found near the border as the cause of the outbreak.
“We can no longer overlook the uninterrupted influx of rubbish from South Korea,” she said. “Our countermeasure must be a deadly retaliatory one.”
Experts have pushed back on reports of Pyongyang’s victory over COVID, however, with cases abruptly halting on July 28. The government’s official stats say COVID had a death rate of just 0.0016%, or 74 out of some 4.77 million in the country, according to Reuters.