It said the fever had spread “explosively” across the country since late April, but did not disclose exactly how many COVID-19 cases had been found. Some experts say North Korea lacks the diagnostic kits needed to test a large number of suspected COVID-19 patients.
The additional deaths reported on Sunday brought the country’s reported fever deaths to 42. The official Korean Central News Agency reported that another 296,180 people with the flu were found, bringing the total number reported to 820,620.
The outbreak has raised concerns about a humanitarian crisis in North Korea, where most of the country’s 26 million people are believed not to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, and its public health system has been in turmoil for decades. Some experts say that if North Korea does not receive immediate shipments of vaccines, drugs and other medical supplies, it could face huge casualties.
Since Thursday, North Korea has imposed a nationwide lockdown to fight the virus. Observers say it could put further strain on the country’s fragile economy, which has been hit by a sharp decline in foreign trade in recent years due to epidemic-related border closures, the punishment of UN economic sanctions for its nuclear program and its own mismanagement.
During a meeting on the outbreak on Saturday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un described the outbreak as a historically “great coup” and called for unity between the government and the people to stabilize the outbreak as soon as possible.
KCNA said on Sunday that more than 1.3 million people were employed to examine and treat sick people and raise public awareness about hygiene. It said all those with fever and abnormal symptoms were being quarantined and being treated.
Of those with symptoms, 496,030 have recovered, while 324,4550 are still receiving treatment as of Saturday, KCNA reported, citing the country’s Emergency Epidemic Prevention Center.
State media reports say Kim and other senior North Korean officials are donating their privately stored drugs to support the country’s fight against the epidemic. During Saturday’s meeting, Kim expressed hope that the country could bring the outbreak under control, saying most of the infections occur in communities that are isolated from each other and not spreading from region to region.