North Korea reports 15 more suspected Covid deaths as outbreak escalates

·2-min read
A woman walks past a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at a railway station in Seoul (AFP via Getty)
A woman walks past a television screen showing a news broadcast with file footage of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at a railway station in Seoul (AFP via Getty)

At least 15 more people have died of suspected Covid in North Korea, state media said on Sunday, while hundreds of thousands more cases of “fever” were recorded in the country as it continued to battled its first Covid-19 outbreak.

The announcement comes just days after North Korea confirmed it had detected its first ever case of the virus, more than two years after the pandemic began and spread rapidly across the globe.

Fresh casualties in the hermit kingdom took the total death toll to 42 on Sunday. A total of 820,620 cases of the virus have been recorded in the country, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

Authorities in North Korea said that the virus had spread across the country “explosively” since late April.

Health experts are worried that a lack of testing equipment may mean that the country is unable to carry out enough tests to ascertain the extent of the spread.

It is thought that North Korea could suffer a huge number of fatalities in the latest outbreak, as officials in the Kim Jong-un administration have not confirmed the vaccination status of its population. The east Asian country is now under pressure to obtain vaccines, medicines and other supplies to combat the spread.

Analyst Cheong Seong-Chang, of South Korea’s Sejong Institute, said that in the absence of testing kits, “North Korea is resorting to body temperature checks to guess at infections. But with such a very inferior and inaccurate method of examination, it’s impossible to find asymptomatic virus carriers and control viral surges.”

Mr Cheong added that the death toll in the country is expected to rise as the number of infections is “explosively increasing”.

Authorities have imposed a nationwide lockdown in the country, in spite of concerns that the restrictions could slow down an economy that is already fragile after years of western sanctions.

More than 1.3 million people have been deployed as part of a health task force in an effort to cope with the rising number of infections, KCNA reported, adding that people with fevers and other abnormal symptoms have been asked to quarantine.

The provision of more quarantine facilities, the speedy transportation of medical supplies and disinfection protocols are among the measures being taken by Pyongyang in response to the outbreak, according to the report.

“All provinces, cities and counties of the country have been totally locked down, and working units, production units and residential units closed from each other since the morning of May 12, and strict and intensive examination of all the people is being conducted,” the report added.

Of the total number so far infected, 496,030 have recovered, while 3,244,550 active cases are still receiving treatment.

Neighbouring countries South Korea and China have offered North Korea vaccines and medical supplies, but officials in Pyongyang are yet to confirm their response.

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