(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, quotes from English-language report throughout; ADDS photos, byline)
By Chae Yun-hwan
SEOUL, Aug. 11 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has declared victory in his country's emergency campaign against COVID-19, state media reported Thursday.
Kim made the announcement during a national meeting on anti-epidemic measures he presided over the previous day, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
He "solemnly declared the victory in the maximum emergency anti-epidemic campaign for exterminating the novel coronavirus that had made inroads into our territory and protecting the lives and health of the people," it said in an English-language article.
Touting the success of three months of the impoverished nation's antivirus measures, Kim proclaimed a decision to lower its "maximum" emergency epidemic prevention system to a normal level.
Kim, however, stressed the need for continued vigilance and stricter measures in border areas to prevent COVID-19 from again entering the country, citing the global spread of variants and monkeypox.
Meanwhile, Kim Yo-jong, the leader's younger sister who serves as vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, blamed the country's virus crisis on the "hysteric farce" from the South to escalate confrontation and reiterated the claim that "alien things" from the South carried the virus into the North.
"We have already considered various counteraction plans but our countermeasure must be a deadly retaliatory one," she was quoted as saying at the meeting by the KCNA in a separate English-language article. "If the enemy persists in such dangerous deeds as fomenting the inroads of virus into our Republic, we will respond to it by not only exterminating the virus but also wiping out the south Korean authorities."
Pyongyang announced its first COVID-19 case on May 12 after claiming to be coronavirus-free for over two years and implemented nationwide lockdowns. The North's daily fever tally has remained at zero since July 29 after peaking at over 392,920 on May 15
Last month, the North claimed its coronavirus outbreak originated from alien things found near the inter-Korean border, alluding to balloon-carried materials sent by North Korean defector groups in South Korea, such as anti-Pyongyang leaflets.
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