North Korea reports 220k new ‘fever’ cases as it continues to battle Covid

·2 min read
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wears a face mask on state television (AP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wears a face mask on state television (AP)

North Korea has reported more than 220,000 new cases of “fever” as it continues to battle a Covid-19 outbreak.

According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), there are an estimated 219,030 cases as of 6pm on Friday, May 20.

This marks the fifth day of rises in the mystery fever in the state. The regime said more than 2.4 million people had fallen ill and 66 people have died since an unidentified fever began spreading in late April.

However, the country has only been able to identify a handful of those cases as Covid-19 due to a lack of testing supplies.

Amid a paucity of public health tools, the North has mobilised more than a million health workers to find people with fevers and isolate them at quarantine facilities.

Leader Kim Jong Un also imposed strict restrictions on travel between cities and towns and mobilised thousands of troops to help with the transport of medicine to pharmacies in the country’s capital, Pyongyang, which has been the center of the outbreak.

During a ruling party Politburo meeting on Saturday, Kim insisted the country was starting to bring the outbreak under control and called for tightened vigilance to maintain the “affirmative trend” in the anti-virus campaign, KCNA said.

But Kim also seemed to hint at relaxing his pandemic response to ease his economic woes, instructing officials to actively modify the country’s preventive measures based on the changing virus situation and to come up with various plans to revitalise the national economy.

The rising caseload and a lack of medical resources and vaccines has led the UN human rights agency to warn of "devastating" consequences for North Korea’s 25 million people.

World Health Organisation officials worry an unchecked spread could give rise to deadlier new variants.

North Korea said on Wednesday the country’s virus outbreak was taking a "favourable turn", although officials in South Korea say it is hard to draw a conclusion as it is unclear how North Korea is calculating the number of fever and Covid patients.

South Korea and the US had both offered to help North Korea fight the virus, including sending aid, but had not received a response, Seoul’s deputy national security adviser said this week.

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