North Korea said on Saturday that more than 200,000 new patients were suffering from fever for the fifth day in a row, as it fought the first confirmed coronavirus outbreak. The ongoing Kovid wave, announced last week, has raised concerns about the lack of vaccines in 25 million countries, inadequate medical infrastructure and a potential food crisis, which has turned down outside aid and closed its borders.
As of Friday evening, at least 219,030 people had shown signs of new fever, bringing the total number of such cases to 2,460,640, the official KCNA news agency reported, citing data from the state’s emergency epidemic prevention headquarters. The death toll has risen to one. KCNA did not say how many people tested positive for the virus. In a separate report, KCNA said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s powerful politburo on Saturday morning to examine the situation and the response nine days since the outbreak.
Kim praised the “positive progress” in the anti-virus campaign, but called for consistent adjustment and adaptation of the policy “to seize the opportunity to win the war against the epidemic.”
KCNA did not elaborate on where Kim saw progress, but state media praised the country’s “good results” in the Covid war, citing sustainable agriculture and production in key industrial sectors and construction projects. In the absence of a national vaccination campaign and limited testing capacity, daily data published by state media may be under-reported and it may be difficult to assess the scale of the covid wave, experts say.
The UN human rights body has warned of “devastating” consequences for North Korea’s 25 million people, while the World Health Organization says uncontrolled spread could lead to the emergence of deadly new forms.