North Korea sends cargo planes to China as it battles Covid outbreak

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Three North Korean cargo planes flew to China and back on Monday as North Korea battles a rapidly spreading Covid-19 outbreak, according to a South Korean government official.

The planes traveled to Taoxian International Airport in northeast China’s Liaoning province, the official said.

It is not known what the planes were carrying, but the rare trip came after China pledged to help North Korea with its Covid-19 outbreak, which experts warn could cause a major humanitarian crisis in the isolated and impoverished country.

North Korea, which has kept its borders closed since January 2020, officially confirmed its first cases of the new coronavirus last week.

Since May 12, the country has reported nearly two million cases of “fever”, in what state media have called a “major national emergency”.

All cities are under lockdown, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has mobilized the military to help ensure supplies of medicine in the capital Pyongyang.

After the first cases were announced, China said it was ready to provide full support as North Korea’s “comrades, neighbors and friends”. The two countries have “a good tradition of mutual assistance,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

During the pandemic, China has distributed millions of doses of vaccines around the world, in addition to closing deals last year with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) international vaccine-sharing program, Covax, to supply more than half a billion of doses.

North Korea has yet to establish a vaccination program against Covid-19, leaving its population vulnerable, according to the WHO. The country’s crumbling healthcare system also lacks the medicines and supplies needed to fight an outbreak of the disease.

The South Korean government said it had offered assistance to North Korea, including medicine, vaccines and other medical supplies, but has yet to receive a response.

Source: CNN Brasil

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