The drop in cases comes as experts cast doubt on North Korea’s ability to contain the outbreak.
North Korea recorded more than 18,820 fever cases and no new deaths in its first official COVID-19 outbreak, state media said on Monday, as authorities continued to insist that infections in the impoverished country were being brought under control.
The country reported more than 4.6 million cases of fever during its first official outbreak, but authorities have not revealed how many of those patients have tested positive for the coronavirus. Authorities reported just over 23,100 fever cases on Friday, the third day in a row that reported infections remained below 30,000.
Before admitting an outbreak in mid-May, Pyongyang had claimed to be free of COVID-19, a record that many observers have cast doubt on due to the severe transmissibility of the coronavirus and the country’s vast land border with China.
The secretive regime ruled by third-generation dictator Kim Jong Un has rejected outside help, including vaccinations, despite widespread malnutrition and a broken healthcare system.
The World Health Organization has cast doubt on North Korea’s claims that the outbreak is receding, warning that cases are underreported and the situation could worsen. The country, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), has so far reported just 73 deaths, far below expectations for an outbreak involving millions of infected people.
Also reported last week Outbreaks of unknown gastrointestinal diseasessuspected of cholera or typhoid, in the southwest of the country.
Tim Peters, founder of Seoul-based aid group Helping Hands Korea Seoul, said North Korea likely underestimated the magnitude of the crisis in the country.
“What could be anything but COVID, the sudden onset of 4.6 million fevers since North Korea admitted COVID cases in mid-May? Authorities there have every reason to seriously worry that their crumbling healthcare system will be overwhelmed by a tsunami of cases,” he said. Peters told Al Jazeera.
“We at HHK have been struggling to deliver medicines to the north since the beginning of the year, but officials there insisted on taking their own humiliation by blocking any much-needed deliveries. If more evidence is needed, it’s that of ordinary North Koreans. Health and wellbeing are far from being a major priority, as tragic as the fact.”