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Covid outbreak under control as treatment ‘intensifies’: N Korea

May 28, 2022

SEOUL: North Korea says its Covid-19 outbreak has been brought under control, with state media reporting falling caseloads for a seventh straight day on Friday as healthcare workers “intensify” testing and treatment.

But experts question the official numbers given the isolated country has one of the world’s worst healthcare systems and likely no Covid-19 drugs or mass testing ability. The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said “progress” has been made in diagnosing and treating patients thanks to “the devoted efforts” of medical workers.

North Korea announced its first coronavirus cases on May 12 and activated a “maximum emergency epidemic prevention system”, with leader Kim Jong Un putting himself front and centre of the government’s response.

Kim blamed lazy officials for a sluggish reaction to the outbreak and deployed the army to staff Pyongyang’s pharmacies. This weekend state media said the epidemic has been brought under control, and KCNA reiterated that message Tuesday.

“Nationwide morbidity and mortality rates have drastically decreased,” the news agency said. On Friday it reported just over 100,000 new cases of “fever”, down from a high of 390,000 a day reported earlier this month.

KCNA also reported one more death on Friday — taking the total to 69 — and claimed the fatality rate remains at 0.002 percent. It says more than three million people have fallen sick. North Korea has not vaccinated any of its roughly 25 million people, having rejected jabs offered by the World Health Organisation. Jong Jun Ho, an army medic deployed in Pyongyang, told AFP the number of patients his team were treating every day has dramatically decreased.