North Korea said on Friday it was achieving “good results” in its fight against its first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak, as the number of people with fever symptoms passed 2 million.
A wave of COVID-19 infections, first confirmed by North Korea last week, has sparked concerns about a lack of medical resources and vaccines in the isolated country heavily sanctioned for its nuclear weapons program.
A South Korean official said North Korea has not responded to offers to send aid from its old enemies, South Korea and the United States.
South Korea’s new president, Eun Suk Yeol, and US President Joe Biden, who arrived in South Korea on Friday, are expected to discuss help.
North Korea reported 263,370 more people with fever symptoms, and two more deaths, according to the KCNA state news agency, taking the total fever caseload from late April to Thursday evening to 2.24 million, including 65 deaths. was also involved.
North Korea lacks COVID testing capacity and has not specified how many of those with fever have been confirmed to have contracted COVID.
Despite the caseload, the North has said that farming is continuing and factories are functioning. It is also planning a state funeral for a retired general.
“Even under maximum emergency epidemic containment conditions, normal production is maintained in major industrial areas and large-scale construction projects go on non-stop,” KCNA reported.
“Good results continue to emerge in the ongoing anti-epidemic war,” it said.
The UN human rights agency has warned of the “devastating” consequences of COVID for North Korea’s 25 million people, while World Health Organization officials worry that uncontrolled spread could lead to the rise of new forms of the deadly.
But North Korea said on Wednesday that the outbreak was taking a “favourable turn”.
South Korean officials say it is hard to draw conclusions, partly because it is unclear how North Korea is counting the number of fever and COVID patients.
Fever cases reported by the government have decreased in the capital Pyongyang, but have risen in rural provinces.
But Martin Williams, a researcher at the US-based 38 North monitoring group, said North Korea’s figures were unlikely to give an accurate description of what is happening, whether through error or intentional manipulation.
“I doubt they represent the exact picture,” he said on Twitter.
Both South Korea and the United States have offered to help North Korea fight the virus, including sending aid, but have received no response, South Korea’s deputy national security adviser said.
But the allies, whom North Korea denounces as its main enemies because it justifies the development of nuclear weapons and missiles, will likely be the last resort to seek North Korea’s help, South Korean legislators said on Thursday as its main security forces. The information was given by the agency.
South Korea’s Foreign Minister Park Jin told parliament that Yoon and Biden would discuss aid to North Korea when they meet on Saturday.
“South Korea and the United States are continuing discussions on providing humanitarian assistance, particularly with regard to COVID-19 in the North,” Park said.