Kim Jong Un scolds officials for pandemic lapse

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has blamed several top ruling party officials for lapses in the country's pandemic response, according to state media reports on Wednesday.

State media agency KCNA reported that Kim pointed to several senior officials as the cause of a "great crisis," which he said put the safety of the country and people at risk.

The report did not elaborate on the nature of the crisis or how it put people at risk.

Several government officials were also replaced during the meeting - but it's unclear whether the shakeup was related to the pandemic.

North Korea has not officially confirmed any COVID-19 cases, a claim questioned by South Korean and American officials.

The reclusive country has imposed strict anti-virus measures, including border closures and domestic travel curbs.

One expert says North Korea has repeatedly broadcast large-scale public gatherings, which suggests that they have prevented any major outbreak.

But he added that may have come at steep cost to its economy and poorest, most vulnerable people.

Last year, North Korea said it declared a state of emergency and locked down the border city of Kaesong after a person who defected to South Korea returned with what state media said were symptoms of COVID-19.

The World Health Organization later said North Korea's COVID test results for the man were inconclusive.

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