SEOUL – North Korea reported a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases and deaths on Saturday as it struggled to contain the first reported outbreak, something the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un Jong-un, said it could be “the biggest crisis since the founding of our nation”.
State media said an additional 174,400 people had symptoms, such as fever, possibly due to Covid-19, nearly ten times more than 18,000 such cases are reported on Friday. It also said 21 more people had died related to the outbreak, bringing the country’s total to 27. But the reports did not say how many new infections or deaths were linked to Covid-19 through through testing.
“North Korea only reports ‘febrile people’ because they don’t have enough test kits,” said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute in South Korea. “Some people with a fever may not be actual patients, but there may be more cases in asymptomatic people without a fever. Therefore, the actual number of infected people is likely to be more than announced by the North”.
Most of the new deaths reported were due to “drug overdose and other negligence due to lack of scientific treatment knowledge,” North Korean health officials said at a high-level meeting on Tuesday. Saturday. At the meeting, Kim criticized medical officials in North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party for “incompetence” and “lack of responsibility”, the Korean Central News Agency said.
After years of insisting that it has no cases of Covid-19 and refuse provide humanitarian aid, North Korea admit on Thursday that an outbreak had begun in late April. The country has reported a total of 524,400 people with Covid-like symptoms since the end of last month. State media said on Saturday that 243,630 people have fully recovered and 280,810 people are still in quarantine.
Health experts have long expressed concern about North Korea’s ability to cope with a major coronavirus outbreak because of its inadequate public health system and low vaccination rates. International health organizations and the South Korean government have said they are ready to deliver vaccines, treatment drugs and other aid if requested by North Korea.
State media reported on Saturday did not say whether North Korea would consider accepting such assistance, but they suggested a malfunctioning public health system.
Mr. Kim was quoted as telling health officials to learn from “epidemic control policies, achievements and experiences of advanced countries”, especially “epidemiological achievements and experiences”. rich studies of the Communist Party of China and its people”.
North Korea appeared to be following ally China’s book on extreme restrictions on Covid as it declared a “maximum state of emergency” this week, ordering the closure of all cities and counties. of this country of 25 million people. It also ordered them to isolate “work units, production units and residential units from each other.”
The government said it was working on how to mobilize “all national means and resources” to get the drugs they needed to patients.
At Saturday’s meeting, Kim said North Korea had not noticed “any uncontrollable spread of the virus between areas,” only infections in locked down areas and units. He also said that most of the symptoms reported were mild.
Mr. Kim said that although “the spread of the virulent virus may be the biggest crisis since the founding of the nation,” it can be overcome if the Workers’ Party and the masses are “united as one.” , according to state media reports.