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

North Korea’s state media said on Thursday that a fever outbreak of unknown origin has emerged in a region bordering China, but it was not the novel coronavirus over which the country declared victory this month.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a ceremony to thank and praise military medics for spearheading the country’s fight against the coronavirus in the capital Pyongyang, state media said on Friday.

North Korea claimed on Friday that the country’s first COVID-19 outbreak began with patients touching “alien things” near the border with South Korea, apparently shifting blame to the neighbour for the wave of infections in the isolated country.

North Korea reported an outbreak of an unidentified intestinal epidemic in a farming region on Thursday, putting further strain on the isolated country as it battles chronic food shortages and a wave of COVID-19 infections.

In the months before it acknowledged its first official COVID-19 outbreak, North Korea suddenly imported millions of face masks, 1,000 ventilators, and possibly vaccines from China, trade data released by Beijing showed.

North Korea on May 21 reported more than 200,000 new patients suffering from fever for a fifth consecutive day, as the country fought its first confirmed coronavirus outbreak.