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According to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the first reported outbreak of Covid-19 in North Korea is the “greatest turmoil” that has hit the country since its inception more than 70 years ago. A contagious virus that can cause a serious humanitarian crisis.

According to state media KCNA, North Korea reported another 21 deaths and 174,440 new “fever cases” on Friday, but probably due to the country’s very limited testing capabilities, how many deaths and cases Was not identified as being related to Covid.

Deaths after North Korea announced Thursday that it had identified the first case of Covid-19 for a country with one of the world’s most vulnerable public health systems and a poorly vaccinated population. There was an increase in the number and a surge in “fever cases”.

However, given the uncertain nature of the administration and its isolation from the world (which has tended to worsen since the pandemic), it is very difficult to assess the actual situation in the field.

Foreign diplomats and aid workers flee North Korea in 2021 due to lack of supplies and “unprecedented” restrictions on daily life, and obtain information from the country by means other than the official national media. Has become more and more impossible.

However, North Korea’s state media coverage is ambiguous, and many important questions remain unanswered, such as the country’s vaccination rate and the impact of the blockade on the lives of 25 million people.

This is what we know and what we don’t know about the outbreak.

North Korean officials have not announced the cause of the outbreak.

The North Korean border has been tightly closed since January 2020 to keep viruses away, and the so-called “hermit country” is even more isolated from the world. Due to the threat of Covid-19, we also declined the invitation to send teams to the Tokyo and Beijing Olympics.

And as new varieties began to emerge, it stepped up their efforts and blocked almost all trade with China. China is the Kim administration’s largest trading partner and economic lifeline, with imports from Beijing declining by 99% from September to October 2020.

It remains unclear how the virus slipped through the country’s tightly sealed borders.

When KCNA reported on Thursday about the first identification of Covid-19 in the country, it did not even identify how many infections were defective. Samples collected from a group of people who experienced fever on May 8 simply state that they were tested positive for the highly contagious Omicron variant.

By Friday, the KCNA reported Thursday that 18,000 new “fever cases” and 6 deaths were recorded. This includes one who was positive for the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron.

“The fever for which the cause could not be identified spread explosively throughout the country from late April,” the newspaper said. “Currently, up to 187,800 people are isolated.”

On Saturday, KCNA said a total of 524,440 people reported “fever” symptoms between late April and May 13.

The outbreak of Covid-19 can have disastrous consequences for North Korea. The lack of aging medical infrastructure and testing equipment in the country is unlikely to be left to the task of treating a large number of patients with highly infectious diseases.

North Korea’s lack of transparency and reluctance to share information also pose challenges.

North Korea has never officially acknowledged how many people died during the devastating famine of the 1990s, experts suggest that it killed as many as two million. Those who fled the country at the time shared the horrifying stories of death and survival and the chaotic country.

“North Korea’s supply of primary care is so limited that public health authorities need to focus on preventive care. He is the director of the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center’s Hyundai Motor Korea Foundation Korea History Center. Jean Lee told CNN at the beginning of the pandemic.

Doctors in exile in recent years often say that working conditions are poor and that everything from medicines to basic medical supplies is lacking.

Former doctor Choi Jong Hoon, who fled North Korea in 2011, will quarantine and quarantine North Korea 24 hours a day while helping to fight the outbreak of scabies between 2006 and 2007. He said he didn’t have the resources to do it. Facility.

He recalled that after identifying the suspicious case, the doctor’s manual stated that the patient was to be transferred to a hospital or quarantine facility for surveillance.

“The problem with North Korea is that the manual is not being followed. When people in hospitals and quarantine facilities were not provided with enough food, people fled to look for food,” Choi said in 2020. I said in an interview with CNN.

North Korean state media declared the situation a “major national emergency” when it first acknowledged the officially reported Covid infection.

On Thursday, Kim blocked all cities and ordered “people with fever or abnormal symptoms” to be quarantined. According to the KCNA, he also ordered the distribution of medicines allegedly stockpiled by the government in case of Covid’s emergency.

Kim later chaired a meeting of the country’s powerful Politburo, which agreed to implement the “largest” urgent epidemic. Measures include isolation of work units and active health checks to find and isolate people with “fever and abnormal symptoms,” KCNA reported Friday.

“Practical measures have been taken to maintain high production rates in the major sectors of the national economy and maximize the stability of people’s lives,” KCNA said.

According to the KCNA, the Politburo “could not respond sensitively” to the increasing number of cases of Covid-19 around the world, including neighboring areas, and was “careless, lazy, irresponsible, and incompetent” in the national epidemic. I criticized the department.

A reporter from China’s state media CGTN released a rare video from Pyongyang on Friday, sharing his experience on the ground.

“As far as we know, few people have been vaccinated in Pyongyang and there is a shortage of medical and epidemic prevention facilities,” Zang Qing said in a Weibo post.

“Since the capital is closed, I have enough food at home for a week. I’m still waiting for the government’s next policy.”

At a meeting on Saturday, Kim inspected the country’s urgent epidemic control and medicines. According to the KCNA, he also urged North Korean authorities to learn from China’s “advanced and abundant quarantine results and experience already achieved in the fight against malicious infections.”

North Korea is not known to have imported the coronavirus vaccine, despite being eligible for Covax, a global Covid-19 vaccine sharing program.

Assuming that most North Koreans are not vaccinated, outbreaks in countries with limited testing capacity, inadequate medical infrastructure, and isolation from the outside world can quickly become fatal. There is sex.

There is a growing call for national leadership to provide access to vaccines.

“There is no evidence that North Korea has sufficient vaccines available to protect its population from Covid-19. Still, it rejects millions of AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines offered by the WHO-led Covax program. “We did,” said Boram Chan, an East Asian researcher at Amnesty International, in a statement.

“In the first official news of the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country, continuing this path could cost many lives and would be a rude neglect to uphold the right to health. . ”

Covax reportedly reduced the number of doses assigned to North Korea because North Korea failed to arrange shipments in February, according to Reuters.

A spokesman for the Vaccine Alliance, Gavi, said Covax has moved to “needs-based vaccine allocation” and “is not currently committed to any amount” to North Korea.

“If a country decides to initiate a Covid-19 immunization program, vaccines will be based on the criteria of Covax’s objectives and technical considerations to enable the country to keep up with international immunization goals. Can be made available, “said the spokesman.


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