Tuesday, March 28, 2023

North Korea’s low death toll questioned amid COVID-19 outbreak

Seoul, South Korea ( Associated Press) – North Korea said on Friday that nearly 10% of its 26 million people have fallen ill and 65 have died in the midst of its first COVID-19 outbreak, as outside experts reported. questions the validity of the fatalities and concerns a possible humanitarian crisis.

After acknowledging Omicron’s outbreak last week after claiming to be coronavirus-free for more than two years, North Korea has said an unknown fever has been spreading across the country since late April. Its anti-epidemic center has released fever figures through state media every morning since then, but they do not include any COVID-19 figures.

Some observers say North Korea was possibly forced to acknowledge the COVID-19 outbreak because it could not hide the highly contagious viral spread among its people and possible public discontent with leader Kim Jong Un. could bear. He believes North Korean officials are downplaying the death rate to show that its pandemic response is effective, while the country lacks testing kits to confirm a large number of virus cases.

“It’s true that its 2 1/2 years of fighting the pandemic have hit a hole,” said Kwak Gil Sup, head of the One Korea Center, a website specializing in North Korea’s affairs. “But there is a saying that North Korea is ‘a theater state,’ and I think they are massaging the figures for COVID-19.”

Kwok said North Korea is using the outbreak partly as a propaganda tool to show that it is overcoming the pandemic with Kim’s leadership. But the country has a “Plan B” and a “Plan C” to seek Chinese and other foreign aid if the pandemic gets out of hand, he said.

On Friday, the North’s State Emergency Epidemic Prevention Headquarters said 263,370 more people had fever symptoms and two more had died, bringing the total fever cases to 2.24 million and fatalities 65. He said 754,810 people remain in quarantine according to the official Korean Central News. agency.

The outbreak likely stemmed from a military parade in Pyongyang on April 25 that Kim organized to show off his new missiles and loyalist troops. The parade and other related festivals, which marked the anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s military, attracted thousands of people and soldiers from Pyongyang and other parts of the country, who returned home after the events.

South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers on Thursday that a “significant number” of fever cases reported by North Korea include people suffering from waterborne diseases such as measles, typhoid and pertussis.

The National Intelligence Service assessed that those diseases were spreading across North Korea even before the outbreak of COVID-19, according to Ha Tae-keung, an MP who attended a private NIS briefing. Ha, citing the NIS, said waterborne diseases were spreading due to a lack of medicines and medical supplies in the wake of the North’s previous long-running anti-epidemic measures.

“(NIS) said it does not know what percentage of fever cases are coronavirus patients. It said there is a shortage of coronavirus diagnostic kits in North Korea, but it appears to have enough thermometers,” Ha said.

The NIS has an excellent record in confirming developments in North Korea. Some civilian medical experts have previously said they believe the majority of fever cases declared by North Korea were COVID-19.

Earlier this week, a health official said on state TV that the government had detected 168 COVID-19 cases as of Monday, when the fever cases in the country had already crossed one million. There has been no update on the North’s virus cases since then.

North Korea’s public medical system is in shambles, and experts say the country could suffer a massive pandemic if it does not receive external aid shipments. He says that the restrictions imposed on movement and quarantine rules in the country could worsen its food insecurity.

NIS said North Korea intended to overcome the pandemic with the help of its main ally, China, according to Ha and Kim Byung-ki, another lawmaker who was briefed by the spy service. During an anti-virus meeting on Saturday, Kim said his country was facing “a major upheaval” and officials should study how China and other countries have handled the pandemic.

Some media reports said North Korea had already sent planes to China to bring back emergency supplies earlier this week, but the South Korean government said it could not confirm the reports. South Korea said it and the United States have offered to send vaccines, medicines and other medical supplies to North Korea, but the North has not responded.


Nation World News Desk
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