North Korea reports 15 more suspicious Covid-19 deaths

North Korea has confirmed 15 more deaths and hundreds of thousands of additional fever patients as it mobilizes more than a million health workers and others to try to suppress the country’s first Covid-19 outbreak, 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 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.

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North Korea has spent two and a half years rejecting outside offers of vaccines and firmly asserting that its superior socialist system was protecting its 26 million people (Cha Song Ho, File/AP)

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 a fever 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.

“Without Covid-19 test kits, North Korea is turning to body temperature checks to second-guess infections. But with such an inferior and inaccurate screening method, it is impossible to find asymptomatic carriers of the virus and control viral surges,” said analyst Cheong Seong-Chang of the Sejong Institute in South Korea.

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North Korea has reported 21 new deaths and 174,440 more people with fever symptoms (Korea Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

“As North Korea’s (suspected) Covid-19 infections increase explosively, its death toll is expected to continue to rise,” Cheong added.

Since Thursday, North Korea has imposed a nationwide lockdown to combat the virus. That could further strain the country’s fragile economy, which has suffered in recent years from sharply reduced foreign trade caused by pandemic-related border closures, punishing UN economic sanctions over its nuclear program and its own mismanagement, observers say.

South Korea and China have offered to send vaccines, medical supplies and other aid shipments to North Korea, but Pyongyang has not publicly responded to the offers.

North Korea previously rejected millions of doses of vaccines offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program amid speculation that it was concerned about possible vaccine side effects or the international monitoring requirements attached to those injections.

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