The secretive state’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim had used a Politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party to criticize senior officials for supposed incompetence, irresponsibility and passiveness in planning and executing anti-covid measures.
According to the report, Kim said “senior officials in charge of important state affairs neglected the implementation of the important decisions of the party on taking organizational, institutional, material, scientific and technological measures as required by the prolonged state emergency epidemic prevention campaign.”
And 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”, KNCA added.
Kim is also said to have replaced several Politburo members and state officials at the meeting.
Last year, Kim imposed strict anti-virus measures including border closures and domestic travel curbs.
The measures are estimated to have had a devastating impact on North Korea’s already fragile economy.
Hong Min, a senior analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification, a think tank funded by South Korea’s government, 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.
“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.”
Earlier this year, North Korea was allocated nearly two million doses of coronavirus vaccines from a global vaccine-sharing programme.
However, the plans have been delayed due to global shortages.