North Korea reports no new cases of ‘fever’ for the first time since May

North Korea has reported no new cases of “fever” for the first time since mid-May, when it abruptly announced its first domestic outbreak of COVID-19, and has imposed strict measures to contain the spread of the virus.

The state’s Northern Epidemic Center said it had found zero fever patients in its most recent 24-hour period, state media reported Saturday.

It said the total caseload was about 4.8 million and about 99.99 percent of patients had made a full recovery. According to official figures, some 74 people have died from the virus, making the death rate in the north – at 0.0016 percent – the lowest in the world.

Shin Young-jeon, a professor at Hanyang University’s medical school in Seoul, said such a low number of deaths was nearly “impossible” to achieve.

“It could be the result of a combination of a lack of testing capacity, counting issues given that old people are more likely to die from COVID-19, mostly from home, and political reasons the leadership is not holding a massive death toll. wants to publish,” he wrote in an analysis released Friday.

Infectious disease experts have expressed doubts about official updates on North Korea’s outbreak since the beginning, with the World Health Organization (WHO) last month saying it believes the situation was getting worse, not better, in the absence of independent data.

Many were also concerned that an outbreak in the isolated country of 26 million would have devastating consequences, as few people had been vaccinated, many were malnourished and the health system was in poor shape.

“The organizational strength and unity unique to the society of (North Korea) is fully manifested in the struggle to achieve a victory in the emergency anti-epidemic campaign by fully expanding the anti-epidemic policies of the party and the state. the official Korean central news agency said on Saturday.

mass celebrations

Earlier this month, Pyongyang said it was on track to “finally defuse the outbreak” even as its neighbors experienced a resurgence in cases caused by Omicron subvariants.

The daily number of cases has fallen sharply in recent days with three cases reported on Friday and 11 on Thursday compared to a peak of around 400,000 per day in May. The country has identified only a fraction of patients as confirmed cases of COVID-19 due to a lack of test kits.

Indicating a dwindling outbreak, North Korea held huge public events in the capital Pyongyang last week, where thousands of longtime Korean War veterans and others from across the country gathered to celebrate the 69th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. Photos shared on state media showed few people wearing masks.

Shin Young-jeon, professor of preventive medicine at Hanyang University in Seoul, says North Korea knows zero cases doesn’t mean no COVID-19 due to prevalence of asymptomatic cases, so probably won’t announce the pandemic officially has overcome soon.

“North Korea’s state media has already used expressions as if they are winning the battle against the virus. The only other expression they can use now is to declare that the coronavirus has been completely eliminated from its territory,” Shin said. “But if new cases surfaced again, North Korea would lose face.”

Given the country’s long, porous border with China, North Korea’s main ally, it will also likely be difficult to announce victory over the pandemic until China does, said Lee Yo Han, a professor at Ajou University. University Graduate School of Public Health in South. Korea.

The border between North Korea and China has been largely closed for more than two and a half years, except for a few months when it reopened earlier this year, and it remains unclear if it will reopen.

Kim Jong-un was photographed without a mask when he met war veterans during celebrations earlier this week [KCNA via Reuters]

China is currently fighting a number of COVID-19 outbreaks in several cities across the country, but remains committed to its zero-COVID strategy to eradicate the virus wherever it appears.

“As the state media has also talked about variants, it remains to be seen if and when they will relax virus rules and lift the border lockdown,” said an official of South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which regulates cross-border relations.

KCNA said a rapid mobile treatment unit remained on high alert and efforts were being made to “find and eradicate the epidemic” until the last patient made a full recovery.

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