North Korea reports 6 deaths after admitting COVID-19 outbreak

North Korea reports 6 deaths after admitting COVID-19 outbreak

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said on Friday six people died and hundreds of thousands others were sickened as the fever exploded across the country, a day after it confirmed a COVID-19 outbreak in a largely unvaccinated population for the first time since the pandemic began.

The true extent of the coronavirus outbreak in North Korea is still unclear, as North Korea – which lacks COVID-19 diagnostic kits and other medical equipment – said it has not figured out why the fever emerged. But some experts say the outbreak could have serious consequences, as North Korea’s health infrastructure remains broken and many of the north’s unvaccinated population remain malnourished.

Korea’s official North Central News Agency said Friday that more than 350,000 people have been treated for a fever that has spread “explosively” across the country since late April, and that 162,200 of them have recovered. On Thursday alone, 18,000 people with fever symptoms were found, it said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how many of the cases were COVID-19, as KCNA said the cause of the fever could not be identified.

According to KCNA, one of the six deceased was confirmed to be infected with the Omicron variant. 187,800 people in North Korea are currently isolated for treatment.

North Korea on Thursday imposed a nationwide lockdown to control its first recognized COVID-19 outbreak, after more than two years of maintaining a widely-disputed claim that it had infected the virus, which has spread to almost every corner of the world. completely repelled.

According to state media, tests of virus samples collected from an unspecified number of people with fevers in the capital Pyongyang on Sunday confirmed they were infected with the Omicron variant. The number of cases was not specified in the reports.

Experts say failure to slow coronavirus infections could have dire consequences given the country has a poor healthcare system and its 26 million people are believed to be largely unvaccinated.

KCNA said Kim was briefed on the fever during his visit to the state epidemic prevention headquarters on Thursday and criticized officials for failing to prevent “a weakness in the epidemic prevention system.”

He said the spread of the fever had been concentrated in the capital Pyongyang and nearby areas, stressing the importance of isolating all work, manufacturing and housing units from each other while providing residents with all the amenities to contain the spread of the virus to contain the “malicious virus”.

“Reversing the immediate public health crisis situation early, restoring the stability of epidemic prevention, and protecting the health and well-being of our people is our party’s most important challenge and supreme task,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

North Korea described its anti-coronavirus campaign as a matter of “national existence” and had severely restricted cross-border movement and trade for the past two years, even reportedly ordering troops to immediately shoot any intruder crossing its borders.

The border closures further hit an economy already battered by decades of mismanagement and crippling US-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programs, and propelled Kim into perhaps the most difficult moment of his rule since he took power in 2011.

North Korea tentatively resumed rail freight services between its border city of Sinuiju and China’s Dandong in January, but China last month announced a halt to trade as it deals with a spread of COVID-19 in its border areas.

Hours after North Korea confirmed the outbreak on Thursday, North Korea launched three short-range ballistic missiles toward the sea, South Korea and Japan said, in what may have been a show of strength after leader Kim Jong Un publicly acknowledged the virus outbreak.

It was the North’s 16th round of missile launches this year as it makes a risky attempt to force the United States to accept North Korea as a nuclear power and negotiate sanctions relaxation and other concessions from a position of strength.

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