North Korea’s Central News Agency reported Monday that more than 1.2 million people have fallen ill with “fever”, including 50 who have died since the end of April. Experts point out that North Korean authorities appear to be using the word “fever” as an acronym for Kovid-19 because they probably lack the ability to diagnose accurately due to a lack of test kits.
North Korea reports 6 deaths in ‘explosive’ coronavirus outbreak
Due to the lack of medical resources, the country of 25 million seems to be managing the growing number by isolating most patients. More than 560,000 people are in quarantine in North Korea, including “fever,” state media reported Monday.
Since North Korea reported its first official Kovid-19 case on Thursday, its leader Kim Jong Un has locked down the country and instructed officials to “completely stop the spread of the malicious virus,” but his public health order was not followed by officials, he said Sunday.
“He has sharply criticized the cabinet and the public health sector for their irresponsible work ethic and ability to organize and carry out,” KCNA reported on Monday.
During an emergency Politburo meeting on Sunday, Kim condemned the slow pace of drug distribution at local pharmacies and instructed the National Army’s medical unit to help stabilize drug supplies. After the meeting, Kim visited Pyongyang’s pharmacy and lamented their “poor condition,” even lacking proper medicine storage.
For the past two and a half years, Pyongyang has maintained a “zero cove” policy, including strict segregation measures and a closed border, which has allowed the country to avoid a major outbreak but has created a health and food crisis.
External experts have long questioned North Korea’s claim that the country is free of the coronavirus.
A few weeks before the announcement of its first official case, North Korea held a massive military parade in Pyongyang where about 20,000 people gathered, which experts said could be a super-spreader event.
North Korea is facing its first Kovid outbreak without a vaccine
North Korea has already rejected doses of millions of vaccines from a UN-based covacs distribution program, possibly due to concerns about the country’s monitoring staff.
North Korea has not yet responded to offers of coronavirus assistance from its rival South Korea, Seoul’s unification ministry said Monday. The ministry said Seoul North was willing to provide resources such as vaccines, medicines, face masks and diagnostic kits and share best practices for epidemic response.
Oh Myung-don, an infectious disease specialist at Seoul National University, said the coronavirus epidemic in North Korea appeared to have started a month ago and it could be too late to be vaccinated. “Of course vaccines are important but unfortunately, vaccines are not expected to play a major role in controlling this outbreak. [in North Korea]He was speaking at a seminar at his university on Monday.
Oh said it would take at least a month for North Korea to get the vaccines, distribute them and vaccinate its citizens, when the country urgently needs immediate medical help, such as antiviral treatment, for patients infected with Kovid-19. Due to the country’s poor health infrastructure, the number of coronavirus deaths in North Korea could exceed 34,000, he said.