North Korea Reports 21 New Deaths As It Battles Covid Outbreak

(@FahadShabbir)

North Korea reports 21 new deaths as it battles Covid outbreak

Seoul, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 14th May, 2022 ) :North Korea announced 21 new "fever" deaths Saturday and said more than half a million people had been sickened nationwide, two days after confirming its first-ever cases of Covid-19.

Despite activating its "maximum emergency quarantine system" to slow the spread of disease through its unvaccinated population, North Korea is reporting tens of thousands of new cases daily.

On Friday alone, "over 174,440 persons had fever, at least 81 430 were fully recovered and 21 died in the country," the official Korean Central news Agency reported.

North Korea confirmed Thursday that the highly-contagious Omicron variant had been detected in the capital Pyongyang, with leader Kim Jong Un ordering nationwide lockdowns.

It was the North's first official confirmation of Covid cases and marked the failure of a two year long coronavirus blockade maintained at great economic cost since the start of the pandemic.

"The number of fevered persons totalized from late April to May 13 is over 524,440," KCNA said, with 27 deaths total.

The report did not specify whether the new cases and deaths had all tested positive for Covid-19, but experts say the country will struggle to test and diagnose on this scale.

"It's not a stretch to consider these 'fever' cases to all be Covid-19, given the North's lack of testing capacity," said Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute.

"The actual number of Covid cases could be higher than the fever figures due to many asymptomatic cases," he said, adding that the pace of infection was growing "very fast".

- 'Great upheaval' - North Korea held its second Politburo meeting this week, overseen by leader Kim Jong Un, KCNA reported.

"The spread of malignant disease comes to be a great upheaval in our country since the founding of the DPRK along with the worldwide spread of Covid-19," he said, referring to North Korea by its official name.

The meeting of the country's top officials discussed "supplying reserve medicines" and other ways of "minimizing the losses in human lives", KCNA said.

North Korea has a crumbling health system -- one of the worst in the world -- and lacks essential medicines and equipment, experts say.

With no Covid vaccines, antiviral treatment drugs or mass testing capacity, North Korea will struggle to handle a massive outbreak, experts warn.