Kim Jong-un has sacked government officials over a "grave incident" related to the coronavirus outbreak in what is believed to be the country's first admission of rising cases.
The North Korean dictator berated staff over what he called a 'crucial' lapse that had caused a 'great crisis with grave consequences' in what's believed to be a reference to Covid-19.
He called out his fellow communist party members for allegedly neglecting their duties, causing a breach of the country's Covid defence.
At the meeting, Kim said: "Senior officials in charge of important state affairs neglected the implementation of the important decisions of the party on taking organisational, institutional, material, scientific and technological measures as required by the prolonged state emergency epidemic prevention campaign."
He went on to add that this "caused a crucial case of creating a great crisis in ensuring the security of the state and safety of the people and entailed grave consequences.”
The official Korean Central News Agency did not confirm exactly what was discussed, how many senior officials have been sacked or what has happened to them.
However, this is believed to be the first time the dictator has admitted to the country's infection rates since the pandemic began, experts say.
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To date, North Korea has claimed to have had no coronavirus infections, despite testing more than 30,000 people and sharing a border with China.
However, senior analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification, Hong Min said the North may be grappling with an outbreak or similar serious setback in its pandemic fight.
Hong said: “There is no possibility that North Korea will ever admit to an infection — even if there were mass transmissions, the North will definitely not reveal such developments and will continue to push forward an anti-virus campaign it has claimed to be the greatest.
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“But it’s also clear that something significant happened and it was big enough to warrant a reprimanding of senior officials.
"This could mean mass infections or some sort of situation where a lot of people were put at direct risk of infections.”
North Korea sealed its borders tightly in an attempt to keep out the virus, but this has led to a severe famine due to a shortage of food.
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