North Korea says its Covid outbreak is spreading fast

SEOUL — North Korea reported a significant rise in suspected coronavirus infections and deaths on Saturday as it struggled to contain it...


SEOUL — North Korea reported a significant rise in suspected coronavirus infections and deaths on Saturday as it struggled to contain its first reported outbreak, which the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, said could be one of the greatest crises in the country’s history.

State media said an additional 174,400 people had symptoms, such as fever, that may be due to Covid-19, nearly a tenfold increase. the 18,000 reported cases Friday. It also said another 21 people had died in connection with the outbreak, bringing the country’s total to 27. But the reports did not specify how many new infections or deaths had been definitively linked to Covid-19 thanks to tests.

“North Korea only reports ‘people with fever’ because it does not have enough test kits,” said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute. in South Korea. “Some of the feverish people may not be true patients, but there could be many more cases among asymptomatic people without fever. So the actual number of people infected will likely be higher than what the North has announced. »

Most of the recently reported deaths have been caused by drug overdoses and other negligence caused by a lack of medical expertise, North Korean health officials said at a high-level meeting on Saturday. At the meeting, Kim criticized health officials from the ruling Workers’ Party in the North for “incompetence” and “irresponsibility”, the Korean Central News Agency said.

After insisting for years that there were no cases of Covid-19 and rejecting offers of humanitarian aid, North Korea admitted Thursday that an epidemic had started at the end of April. The country has reported a total of 524,400 people with Covid-like symptoms since the end of last month. State media said Saturday that 243,630 people had fully recovered and 280,810 were still in quarantine.

Health experts have long worried about the North’s ability to fight a major coronavirus outbreak because of its worn-out public health system and low immunization rate. International health organizations and the South Korean government have said they are ready to ship vaccines, therapeutics and other aid if requested by the North.

State media reports on Saturday did not indicate whether the North would consider accepting such aid, but they did suggest a flawed public health system.

Mr Kim was quoted as telling health officials to take inspiration from “epidemic prevention policies of advanced countries”, particularly those of China, its neighbor and ally.

North Korea appeared to be following China’s playbook of extreme Covid restrictions when it declared a “maximum emergency” this week, ordering all cities and counties in the country of 25 million to go into lockdown. He also ordered them to isolate “every work unit, production unit and residential unit from each other”.

The government said it was studying how to mobilize “all the means and all the forces of the state” to provide patients with the drugs they need.

At Saturday’s meeting, Mr Kim said the virus was only spreading in locked areas and individual units, and there was no “uncontrollable spread between regions”. He also said most of the symptoms reported were mild.

Mr Kim said the Covid outbreak was “a great upheaval in our country”, one of the biggest in its history. But he said it could be overcome “based on the unity of spirit of the party and the people”, according to state media.

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Newsrust - US Top News: North Korea says its Covid outbreak is spreading fast
North Korea says its Covid outbreak is spreading fast
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