Monday, March 27, 2023

WHO ‘deeply concerned’ about North Korean COVID outbreak

Seoul, South Korea ( Associated Press) — North Korea added hundreds of thousands of infections to its rising pandemic caseload on Wednesday, but said only a week after revealing the outbreak of a public health crisis had a million people already suspected of COVID-19. Have recovered from 19. It seems to be trying to manage in isolation as global experts express deep concern about the dire consequences.

The country’s anti-virus headquarters announced 232,880 new cases of fever and another six deaths in state media on Wednesday. Those figures raise its total to 62 deaths and more than 1.7 million fever cases since the end of April. It said more than a million people have recovered but at least 691,170 are in quarantine.

Read more: As the North Korean virus progresses, Kim John Un has a choice. Will he go alone or accept international aid?

Outside experts believe most fevers are caused by COVID-19, but North Korea lacks the tests to confirm so many fevers. The outbreak is almost certainly larger than a fever, as some virus carriers may not develop fever or other symptoms.

It is also unclear how more than a million people recovered so quickly, with limited medicine, medical equipment and health facilities to treat the country’s poor, unvaccinated population of 26 million.

Some experts say the answer can only release people from quarantine after the fever subsides.

Globally, COVID-19 has killed around 6.3 million people, with the actual toll believed to be much higher. Countries with outbreaks of the same size as North Korea’s official fever tally have each confirmed thousands of deaths.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday that North Korea has not responded to its request for more data about its outbreak.

Before admitting COVID-19 infections for the first time last week, North Korea made a widely dubious claim of keeping the virus out. It also gave away the millions of vaccine shots offered by the United Nations-backed COVAX distribution program, possibly due to international surveillance requirements accompanying them.

North Korea and Eritrea are the only sovereign UN-member countries not to have vaccines, but Tedros said neither country has responded to WHO’s offers of vaccines, medicines, tests and technical assistance.

“WHO is very concerned about the risk of further spread in[North Korea],” Tedros said, noting that the number of people in the country with underlying conditions is worrisome, making them more likely to have severe COVID-19. Chances are.

WHO’s head of emergencies Dr. Michael Ryan said uncontrolled transmission of the virus could lead to new forms, but until countries accepted its help, the WHO was powerless to act.

The North has so far ignored rival South Korea’s offers to provide vaccines, medicine and healthcare workers, but experts say the North may be more willing to accept help from its main ally, China. South Korea’s government said it could not confirm media reports that North Korea on Tuesday flew several planes to bring back emergency supplies from China.

North Korean officials continued to express confidence Tuesday during a ruling party politburo meeting that the country could handle the crisis on its own, with politburo members “maintaining a consistently good chance in the overall epidemic prevention front”. ways to be discussed, the official Korean Central News Agency said on Wednesday.

It is suspected that North Korea is minimizing the deaths to ease the blow for Kim, who was already navigating the toughest moment of his decade in power. The pandemic has further damaged an economy already battered by Kim’s mismanagement and US-led sanctions on the development of nuclear weapons and missiles.

At the Politburo meeting, Kim criticized officials over their initial pandemic response, which he said underscored the “immaturity in the state’s ability to deal with the crisis” and criticized their “non-positive attitude, lethargy and non-compliance”. activity” blamed the country’s vulnerability. KCNA said.

The report said he urged officials to strengthen virus controls at workplaces and to redouble efforts to improve the supply of daily necessities and stabilize living conditions.

North Korea has also deployed about 3,000 military medical officers to help deliver medicine to pharmacies and to assist public health officials, teachers and health care study students to identify people with fevers to separate them. The country is relying on finding people with symptoms and isolating them in shelters because it lacks vaccines, high-tech drugs and equipment, and lacks intensive care units that reduce hospitalizations and deaths in other countries. Huh.

Expressing concern over the outbreak, Kim has also stressed that his economic goals must be met. State media reports suggest large groups of workers are gathering at farms, mining facilities, power stations and construction sites, prompting them to ensure that their jobs are “operated as scheduled”.

North Korea’s COVID-19 outbreak came amid a provocative race in arms demonstrations, including the first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile in nearly five years, aimed at helping the United States accept the North’s idea as a nuclear power. was forced to do. Negotiate economic and security concessions from a position of strength.

US and South Korean officials also believe North Korea could detonate its seventh nuclear test this month.

North Korea’s nuclear threat is expected to top the agenda when US President Joe Biden meets with South Korean President Eun Suk Yeol during a visit to Seoul this week. Yun’s deputy national security adviser Kim Tae-hyo told reporters on Wednesday that while North Korea may not conduct a nuclear test this week, its preparations for another ICBM test appear imminent.

Kim Jong Un confirmed during Tuesday’s Politburo meeting that he would “wake up the whole party (a) active volcano once again” and “without fail” to prove his leadership ahead of history and time. Will protect the well-being of our country and people and demonstrate once again the strength and spirit of heroic Korea to the whole world,” KCNA said. There was no direct reference to any major weapons test in the report.

According to an analysis released Tuesday by Beyond, recent commercial satellite images of the nuclear test ground at Pungye-ri indicate refurbishment work and preparations in an as-yet-unused tunnel on the southern side of the site, possibly to host a nuclear test. is nearing completion. Parallel, a website operated by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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