Six people have died and 350,000 have been cured of a fever that has exploded “explosively” in North Korea, state media said on Friday, a day after recognizing the first outbreak of COVID-19.
North Korea probably does not have enough COVID-19 tests, other medical equipment, said it did not know the reason for the mass tender. But a major outbreak of COVID-19 could be devastating in a country with a poor health system and an unvaccinated, malnourished population.
North Korea’s official Central News Agency reports that 162,200 of the 350,000 people who have had a fever since the end of April have recovered. It says 18,000 people were just diagnosed with fever on Thursday alone, and 187,800 were isolated for treatment.
One of the six people who died was confirmed to be infected with the omicron variant, the KCNA said, but it was not immediately clear how many of the common diseases were COVID-19.
North Korea imposed a nationwide blockade on Thursday after recognizing its first COVID-19 cases. Those reports say an unspecified number of people tested positive for the omicron version.
It is unusual for isolated North Korea to admit that an outbreak of a contagious disease is not to mention a threat like COVID-19, as the country is intensely proud and sensitive to external perceptions of its self-proclaimed “socialist utopia.”
Although Kim has sometimes been outspoken about her deteriorating economy and other issues in recent years, she has repeatedly expressed confidence in North Korea’s response to the epidemic by not wearing a mask before the ruling party meeting on Thursday, where North announced COVID. -19 infection.
The spread of the virus is likely to be accelerated by a mass military parade in Pyongyang on April 25, where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un demonstrated the most powerful missiles of his nuclear program “in front of tens of thousands”.
Chong Seong-chang, an analyst at the South Korea Sejong Institute, says the spread of the fever suggests that the crisis could last for months, possibly until 2023, causing major unrest in a poorly populated country.
Some experts say the North’s initial statement expresses its willingness to receive foreign aid.
Recommendations for avoided vaccines
Last year, the North avoided the millions of shots offered by the UN-sponsored COVAX distribution program, including doses of AstraZeneca Sin Chinese Sinovac vaccines, possibly because of a reluctance to meet their efficacy monitoring requirements. The country does not have the extreme cold storage systems needed for mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer և Moderna.
The South Korean Ministry of Unification, which deals with inter-Korean issues, has stated that South Korea is ready to provide medical assistance and other assistance to North Korea for humanitarian reasons. Ministry spokesman Bu Sen-chan said Seoul did not immediately have an assessment of vaccine doses that it could share with North Korea if Pyongyang asked for help.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Thursday that Beijing was offering assistance to North Korea in its fight against the outbreak.
“As a friend, a neighbor, China is ready to provide full support to the DPRK in its fight against the epidemic,” Zhao told reporters during a daily briefing, using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the People’s Democratic Republic. Korean.
The KCNA says Kim was informed of the outbreak when she visited the Emergency Prevention Headquarters on Thursday to criticize officials for preventing a “vulnerability in the epidemic system.”
He said the spread of the fever was concentrated around the capital Pyongyang, stressing the need to isolate all working and residential units while providing residents with every convenience during the blockade.
North Korea’s COVID record is widely questioned
“Our party’s most challenging challenge and ultimate task is to reverse the public health crisis, restore resilience to prevent epidemics, and protect the health and well-being of our people,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying. .
North Korea’s claim of a perfect record of keeping the virus for two and a half years has been widely questioned. But it has been thought to have avoided a huge outbreak so far, in part because it has established strict viral control almost since the beginning of the epidemic.
The tight closure of the border and other measures later hit the economy, which had already been damaged by decades of mismanagement, North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and US-led sanctions, pushing Kim into the most difficult moment of her rule.
Hours after the COVID-19 blast was confirmed on Thursday, North Korea fired three short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, presumably to demonstrate its strength. This was the 16th phase of the Northern Missile launch this year.
Referring to North Korea’s avoidance of COVAX vaccines, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States supports international aid efforts but does not plan to share its vaccines with the North.
“We continue to support international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable North Koreans. It is, of course, the wider part of the DPRK that continues to exploit its own citizens without accepting this type of assistance. “Psaki said in Washington on Thursday.
“It’s not just vaccines, it’s also a set of humanitarian aid that can go a long way in helping the people, the country; instead, they are directing resources to build their own illegal nuclear-ballistic missile programs.”
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