North Korea reports no new fever cases for first time since COVID outbreak

SEOUL, July 30 (Reuters) – North Korea reported no new fever cases on Saturday for the first time since recognizing a COVID-19 outbreak in the isolated country in mid-May, state media reported.

North Korea said earlier this month it was on track to “finally defuse” its first publicly declared coronavirus crisis, even as Asian neighbors experience a resurgence of infections caused by Omicron subvariants. read more

The official KCNA news agency said 99.99% of 4.77 million fever patients have made a full recovery since the end of April, but due to an apparent lack of testing, it has not released figures on people who tested positive for the virus.

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Infectious disease experts have expressed doubts about North Korea’s progress, with the World Health Organization saying last month it believes the situation was getting worse, not better, in the absence of independent data. read more

KCNA said a rapid mobile treatment unit is still on edge and efforts are underway to “track and eradicate the epidemic” until the last patient is fully recovered. According to state media, 204 fever patients were being treated on Friday.

North Korea’s latest report on the death toll among fever patients was 74 on July 5, but Shin Young-jeon, a professor at Hanyang University’s medical school in Seoul, said such low death rates were nearly “impossible.”

“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.

Army medics were involved in drug distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic in Pyongyang, North Korea, May 22, 2022 in this photo, released May 23, 2022 by the Korean Central News Agency. KCNA via REUTERS

Shin said there could have been up to 50,000 deaths, given the number of fever cases, overall death rates reported elsewhere and possible unreported cases.

Despite claims that there are no new cases, North Korea is likely to maintain the strict social controls it has imposed, in part using the pandemic as a pretext, as long as the “maximum emergency system for epidemic prevention” is in place.

The north blamed the COVID outbreak on “alien things” near the border with the south and urged people to avoid anything that comes from outside.

“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 at South Korea’s Unification Ministry who handles inter-Korean affairs.

Pyongyang’s possible declaration of victory over COVID-19 could be a prelude to a recovery in trade long hampered by the pandemic, analysts in North Korea said.

Trading volume fell 17.3% to $710 million last year amid a strict border closure. read more

North Korea temporarily resumed freight trains with China at the beginning of this year, but suspended them again in April due to heightened fears of the spread of the coronavirus.

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Reporting by Soo-hyang Choi and Hyonhee Shin; adaptation by Grant McCool and Sandra Maler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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