Kim Jong Un suggests North Korea may begin COVID vaccinations

People wearing protective face masks following an outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), follow a trail in Cheongdo county, which has been designated as a 'special care zone' since the coronavirus outbreak, near Daegu in North Gyeongsang Province, South Korea, March 11, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo

SEOUL, Sept 9 (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has suggested that the isolated country could begin COVID-19 vaccinations in November, state media reported on Friday.

In a speech on Thursday to the North Korean national assembly, Kim cited World Health Organization warnings that the winter could see a resurgence in coronavirus infections.

“Therefore, along with responsible vaccination, we should recommend that all residents wear masks to protect their health from November," he said, without elaborating.

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North Korea has not confirmed administering any COVID-19 vaccinations, although customs records show that it has imported some unspecified vaccines from China this year.

Last month Kim declared victory over COVID-19 and ordered the lifting of maximum anti-epidemic measures imposed in May though adding that North Korea must maintain a “steel-strong anti-epidemic barrier."

North Korea has never confirmed how many people caught COVID, apparently because it lacks the means to conduct widespread testing.

Instead, it has reported daily numbers of patients with fever, a tally that rose to some 4.77 million, out of an estimated population of about 25 million. But it has registered no new such cases since July 29, and says its death toll stands at 74.

Experts, including the WHO, have cast doubt on those numbers, citing an apparent lack of testing capacity in North Korea.

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Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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