SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – North Korea has confirmed 15 more deaths and hundreds of thousands more patients with flu-like symptoms as it mobilizes more than 1 million health and other workers to try to suppress the country’s first outbreak of COVID-19. 19 outbreak, state media reported on Sunday.
North Korea has been claiming no coronavirus for more than two years, a controversial claim, but North Korea announced on Thursday that it had detected its first COVID-19 patients since the pandemic began.
It has since said the fever had “exploded” across the country since late April, but did not disclose exactly how many COVID-19 cases it had detected. Some experts say North Korea lacks the diagnostic kits needed to test large numbers of suspected COVID-19 patients.
The new deaths reported on Sunday brought the number of fever-related deaths reported in the country to 42. The official KCNA news agency also reported that another 296,180 people had flu-like symptoms, bringing the total reported to 820,620.
The outbreak has raised concerns about a humanitarian crisis in North Korea, as most of the country’s 26 million people are believed to have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus and its public health care system has been in disarray for decades. Some experts say North Korea could suffer massive deaths if it does not immediately receive the outbound shipments of vaccines, medicines and other medical supplies.
North Korea has imposed a nationwide lockdown to fight the virus since Thursday. Observers say this could further exacerbate the country’s fragile economy, which has suffered in recent years as foreign trade has plummeted due to pandemic-related border closures and UN economic sanctions over its nuclear program and its mismanagement have been punished. hit hard.
At a meeting on the outbreak on Saturday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un described the outbreak as a “great turmoil” in history and called on the government and people to unite to stabilize the outbreak as soon as possible.
KCNA said on Sunday that more than 1.3 million people have been engaged in examining and treating patients and raising public health awareness. It said all people with fever and others with unusual symptoms were isolated and treated.
Of those who developed symptoms, 496,030 had recovered, while 324,4550 were still receiving treatment as of Saturday, KCNA said, citing the country’s emergency epidemic prevention center.
State media reported that Kim Jong-un and other senior North Korean officials were donating their private stockpile of medicines to support the country’s fight against the virus. At Saturday’s meeting, King expressed optimism that the country can contain the outbreak, saying that most transmission occurs within communities that are isolated from each other and does not spread from one region to another.