North Korea reports more deaths and says it is taking “rapid action” against the COVID outbreak

North Korea reports more deaths and says it is taking “rapid action” against the COVID outbreak

SEOUL, May 15 (Reuters) – North Korea said on Sunday a total of 42 people had died as the country began its fourth day under a nationwide lockdown to halt the impoverished country’s first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak.

North Korea’s admission on Thursday that it is battling an “explosive” COVID-19 outbreak has raised concerns that the virus could devastate a country with an underfunded healthcare system, limited testing capabilities and no vaccine program. Continue reading

State news agency KCNA said the country was taking “rapid emergency government action” to control the epidemic, but there was no sign Pyongyang would accept international vaccine offers.

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“All the provinces, cities and counties in the country have been in full lockdown since the morning of May 12, and work units, production units and housing units are separated from each other, and strict and intensive investigations of all people are being carried out,” KCNA reported Sunday.

A day earlier, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the spread of COVID-19 had plunged his country into “great turmoil” and called for a full-scale fight to overcome the outbreak. Continue reading

Despite the lockdowns, Kim and other senior officials attended Saturday’s memorial service for Yang Hyong Sop, a former de facto head of state during the reign of Kim’s father Kim Jong Il, KCNA reported.

Health authorities set up more epidemic prevention posts and transported urgent medical supplies to hospitals and clinics, while top officials had donated backup medicines, KCNA reported.

A “large proportion” of the deaths were attributed to people who “were careless in taking drugs due to a lack of knowledge and understanding of the stealth omicron variant viral infectious disease and its correct method of treatment,” the report said.

Korean Central Television broadcast treatments for the fever on Saturday night. A doctor at Kimmanyu Hospital recommended “gargling with salt water” and taking various medicines for fever, headache, muscle and joint pain.

KCNA also suggested drinking Lonicera japonica tea or willow leaf tea three times a day yesterday.

At least 296,180 other people contracted fever symptoms and 15 others had died as of Sunday, the outlet said.

Experts say North Korea appears unable to test these tens of thousands of symptomatic patients. KCNA did not disclose how many of those suspected cases tested positive for COVID-19.

Overall, North Korea has reported 820,620 suspected cases, of which 324,550 are still receiving medical treatment, KCNA said.

North Korea had previously reported no confirmed cases of the virus and is one of only two countries in the world that has not yet started a COVID vaccination campaign, according to the World Health Organization.

The self-imposed lockdowns have slowed trade to a trickle and raised concerns about food shortages or other hardships, aid agencies said. Continue reading

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Reporting by Josh Smith and Byungwook Kim; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Richard Chang and Cynthia Osterman

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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