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 a million health workers and others to try to suppress the first outbreak of COVID-19 in the country. state media reported on Sunday.
After upholding a widely disputed claim of being coronavirus-free for more than two years, North Korea announced on Thursday that it had found its first COVID-19 patients since the pandemic began.
It has since said the fever has spread across the country “explosively” since late April, but has not revealed exactly how many COVID-19 cases it has found. Some experts say North Korea lacks the diagnostic kits needed to test a large number of suspected COVID-19 patients.
The additional deaths reported on Sunday brought the country’s reported fever-related deaths to 42. The official Korean Central News Agency also reported that another 296,180 people with flu symptoms had been counted, bringing the reported total to 820,620. .
The outbreak has raised concerns of a humanitarian crisis in North Korea because most of the country’s 26 million people are believed to be unvaccinated against the coronavirus and its public health system has been in shambles for decades. Some experts say North Korea could suffer heavy casualties if it doesn’t immediately receive foreign shipments of vaccines, drugs and other medical supplies.
Since Thursday, North Korea has imposed a nationwide lockdown to combat the virus. Observers say that could further strain the country’s fragile economy, which has suffered in recent years from a sharp drop in foreign trade caused by pandemic-related border closures, punishing UN economic sanctions over its program. nuclear power and its own mismanagement.
During a meeting on the outbreak on Saturday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un described the outbreak as a “major upheaval” in history and called for unity between the government and the people to stabilize the outbreak as quickly as possible.
KCNA said on Sunday that more than 1.3 million people have participated in work to examine and treat sick people and raise public awareness of hygiene. He said that everyone with a fever and others with abnormal symptoms were being quarantined and treated.
Of those with symptoms, 496,030 have recovered, while 324,4550 were still receiving treatment as of Saturday, the KCNA reported, citing the country’s emergency epidemic prevention center.
State media reports said Kim and other top North Korean officials are donating their privately held drugs to support the country’s fight against the pandemic. During the meeting on Saturday, Kim expressed optimism that the country could control the outbreak, saying that most transmissions occur within communities that are isolated from each other and do not spread from one region to another.
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