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21 new deaths “of fever” in the midst of an epidemic

North Korea could soon find itself in a very complicated situation in the face of Covid-19 and after having refused vaccination offers from the WHO, China and Russia.

The reclusive country of 25 million has announced 21 more deaths from ‘fever’ and more than half a million people are sick, two days after the first ever case was officially announced of Covid-19.

Following these first cases on Thursday – people had tested positive for Omicron’s BA.2 sub-variant – the Pyongyang regime had decreed a general confinement.

Not able to massively test its population

“The number of people with fever between the end of April and May 13 is over 524,440,” according to KCNA, the state news agency which reported 27 deaths in total. On Friday alone, “more than 174,440 people presented with fever, at least 81,430 have fully recovered and 21 have died,” KCNA reported.

It does not specify whether these new cases and deaths have all tested positive for Covid-19, but experts say the country does not have the capacity to massively test its population.

“It is no exaggeration to consider that these ‘fever’ cases are all coronavirus cases, given the lack of testing capacity,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea specialist at the Institute. Sejong. “The actual number of Covid cases could be higher than the figures showing people with fever due to many asymptomatic cases,” he said.

North Korea, which was one of the first countries in the world to close its borders in January 2020 after the virus emerged in neighboring China, has long boasted of its ability to keep the virus at bay. It had not previously reported any confirmed cases of Covid-19 to the WHO.

Leader Kim Jong Un appeared on television for the first time wearing a mask, after chairing an emergency politburo meeting on the epidemic situation on Thursday.

North Korea’s healthcare system one of the worst in the world

This Saturday, a second meeting of the political bureau was held, during which the leader recognized that “the spread of a malignant disease is coming to upset our country”, according to KCNA.

He promised a “rapid distribution of emergency drugs” and assured that he wanted to introduce “methods of treatment for patients, including those with special constitutions” in order to “minimize human losses”. He said he was “convinced” that he could “defeat this malicious infectious disease as soon as possible”, the agency added.

But the country’s health system – one of the worst in the world – is in shambles and lacks essential drugs and equipment, experts warn.

Kim Jong Un has announced that he will adopt the Chinese model in the fight against the coronavirus.


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