SEOUL, South Korea ( Associated Press) — North Korea on Thursday reported 262,270 more cases of people with suspected symptoms of COVID-19 as its epidemic caseload neared 2 million — a week after the country acknowledged the outbreak and Scrambled to slow the rate of infection. Lack of health care resources.
The country is also trying to prevent its fragile economy from deteriorating, but the outbreak could be worse than officially reported due to scarce resources for virus testing and likely political influence on North Korea’s authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un. Deliberately underestimating deaths to soften the blows. Un.
North Korea’s anti-virus headquarters reported a single death in the 24 hours to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 63, which experts have said is unusually small compared to the suspected number of infections. Is.
The official Korean Central News Agency reported that since late April, more than 1.98 million people have become ill with symptoms of fever, which are mostly thought to be infections of the coronavirus omicron type, although the country has reported a small number of infection cases. Confirmed. of tests. At least 740,160 people are in quarantine, the news agency reported.
After maintaining a dubious claim that it had kept the virus out of the country for two and a half years, North Korea admitted its first COVID-19 infection last Thursday, saying tests of unspecified people in the capital Pyongyang It turned out that they were infected. With the Omicron version.
Kim called the outbreak a “great upheaval” and described the country as having maximum preventive measures that strictly restrict the movement of people and supplies between cities and regions.
They mobilized more than 1 million workers to find and quarantine people with fever and other suspected COVID-19 symptoms. Thousands of soldiers were ordered to help transport medicine to the capital of Pyongyang.
Media images from the state showed health workers in white and orange hazmat suits guarding the city’s closed streets, disinfecting buildings and streets, and distributing food and other supplies in apartment blocks.
But large groups of workers continue to gather at farms, mining facilities, power stations and construction sites to boost production as Kim has demanded that economic targets be met, the Korean Central News Agency reported.
Experts have said Kim cannot afford to bring the country to a standstill because it would further hit an economy damaged by mismanagement, cripple his nuclear weapons ambitions and US-led sanctions on the pandemic border closure.
The country is facing an urgent push to protect crops amid an ongoing drought during a crucial rice-planting season, a worrying development in a country that has long suffered from food insecurity. North Korean state media also said that Kim’s trophy construction projects, including the construction of 10,000 new homes in the city of Hwaseong, were “proceeding as scheduled.”
“All sectors of the national economy are maximizing production by strictly adhering to the anti-epidemic measures taken by the party and the state,” the Korean Central News Agency reported, referring to travel restrictions and a virus control at workplaces, in which Segregation of workers into groups based on their job classification.
The news agency said: “The units are reasonably isolated at major construction sites, with the cherished desire of our party coming to fruition and in key industrial sectors, including the metals, chemical, power and coal industries. And manufacturing and production are being continuously accelerated, priority is being given to anti-epidemic work.”
Harvard Medical School global health expert Key Park, who has worked on health care projects in North Korea, said the country’s number of new cases should slow because of stronger preventive measures.
Park said it would be challenging for North Korea to provide treatment for the already large number of people with COVID-19 and that deaths could potentially be on the scale of tens of thousands given the size of the country’s caseload.
It is unclear whether North Korea’s admission of the outbreak communicates a desire to receive outside aid. The country has given away millions of vaccine shots offered by the United Nations-backed COVAX distribution program, possibly because of international surveillance requirements that are needed to receive the vaccines.
Kim Tae-hyo, deputy national security adviser to South Korean President Eun Suk Yeol, told reporters on Thursday that North Korea has ignored offers of help from South Korea and the United States to contain the outbreak.
Experts have said North Korea may be more willing to accept help from its main ally, China.