The World Health Organization said on Thursday that it had resumed shipments of medical supplies to North Korea to help its Covid-19 response, in what appears to signal a relaxation of the closed-border policies enforced by Pyongyang early in the pandemic.
The agency said that its shipments of medical supplies, together with international supplies destined for North Korea, had become stranded in China after Pyongyang sealed the country’s borders in January 2020 when Covid-19 was declared a public health emergency of international concern.
North Korea’s Ministry of Public Health told the agency several months ago that would allow the stranded supplies to be transported through the northern Chinese port of Dalian, a W.H.O. spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, said in an emailed statement.
As a result, the agency had sent some of the medical supplies and equipment to the North Korean port of Nampo, he said.
North Korea has not reported any Covid-19 infections, and it turned down several offers of vaccines, including ones from the United Nations-backed Covax facility and from Russia. But North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said in June that lapses in his country’s anti-pandemic campaign had caused a “great crisis” that threatened “grave consequences,” according to the state media. He did not clarify whether he was referring to an outbreak within the country.
The W.H.O. said its shipments to North Korea included health kits, medicines and other medical supplies that would support essential health services at primary health care centers.
The agency said it had been told that these supplies remained under quarantine in Nampo.