SEUL – North Korea on Wednesday reported 232,880 new cases of fever and six more deaths when leader Kim Jong Un accused officials of “immaturity” and “sluggishness” in their early fight against the COVID-19 outbreak, which devastated the unvaccinated country.

The country’s anti-virus headquarters said 62 people had died and more than 1.7 million had fallen ill amid the rapid spread of the fever since late April. It says more than a million people have been cured, but at least 691,170 remain in quarantine.

External experts say most of the disease will be COVID-19, although North Korea has been able to confirm only a small number of COVID-19 cases since the recognition of the amicron outbreak last week, probably due to insufficient testing facilities.

Failure to control the outbreak could have severe consequences in North Korea, given its disrupted health care system and the refusal of vaccines offered internationally, leaving a population of 26 million people not immune.


The epidemic almost certainly exceeds the fever rate, given the lack of tests and resources to monitor patients, and there is a suspicion that North Korea is underestimating the death toll to soften the blow for Kim, who is already going through the hardest moment of his decade. in power. The pandemic has further damaged the economy, which has already suffered from mismanagement and US-led sanctions over Kim’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles.

The official Central News Agency of North Korea said that during a meeting of the Politburo of the ruling party on Tuesday, Kim criticized officials for their early response to the pandemic, which, he said, highlighted “immaturity in the state’s ability to cope with the crisis” attitude, relaxation and inactivity ”.

He urged officials to tighten controls against viruses in the workplace and to “redouble their efforts” to improve the supply of basic necessities and stabilize living conditions, the KCNA said on Wednesday.


Kim’s comments came days after he told officials they were distributing drugs released from state reserves and mobilized his military to help transport supplies to pharmacies in Pyongyang’s capital, which were open 24 hours to fight the crisis. .

The KCNA said nearly 3,000 members of the Korean People’s Army’s medical units helped deliver drugs to pharmacies, while more than 1.4 million officials, faculty and students in the health sectors were sent for examinations to identify people with symptoms to they could be quarantined.

With no public health tools such as vaccines, antiviral pills, and intensive care units that have reduced hospitalizations and deaths in other countries, North Korea relied on finding people with symptoms and isolating them in shelters.

Raising alarm about the outbreak, Kim also stressed that his economic goals must be met. State media reports indicate that large groups of workers continue to gather on farms, mining facilities, power plants and construction sites to ensure that their work is “on schedule”.


Before recognizing the COVID-19 infection last Thursday, North Korea insisted on perfect records for conserving the virus, which has reached almost every corner of the world, and this claim has caused widespread doubt. But its extremely strict border closures, large-scale quarantines and propaganda that highlighted anti-virus controls as a matter of “national existence” may still have prevented a huge outbreak.

It is unclear whether the North indicates a COVID-19 outbreak of readiness to accept external assistance. The Kim government has turned down millions of vaccine injections offered by the UN-supported COVAX distribution program, probably because of international control requirements for them.

North Korea and Eritrea are the only sovereign nations that have not released the vaccine. World Health Organization Director-General Tedras Adhanom Gebreesus told a briefing on Tuesday that the agency had offered to send vaccines, drugs, tests and technical support to both countries, but the head of state had not yet responded.


“The WHO is deeply concerned about the risk of further spread to (North Korea),” Tedras said, noting that the country has an alarming number of people with major diseases who are at risk of serious illness.

The head of the WHO Emergency Situations Department, Dr. Michael Ryan, said that any uncontrolled transfer in countries such as North Korea and Eritrea could push for new options, but that the WHO is powerless to act if countries do not accept its help.

The North is still ignoring South Korea’s rival’s offer to provide vaccines, drugs and medical personnel, but experts say the North may be more willing to accept aid from its main ally China. The South Korean government has said it cannot confirm media reports that on Tuesday North Korea took off several planes to return emergency supplies from China.

Representatives of North Korea during Tuesday’s meeting continued to express confidence that the country could overcome the crisis on its own, and members of the Politburo discussed ways to “maintain a good chance on the common front to prevent the epidemic,” KCNA said.


While Kim was first spotted in masks after North Korea recognized the COVID-19 infection last week, photos of state media from Tuesday’s meeting showed Kim and members of the Politburo participating in face-to-face discussions, possibly expressing confidence.

The COVID-19 outbreak in North Korea came amid provocative weapons demonstrations, including its first intercontinental ballistic missile test in nearly five years, on the verge of forcing the United States to accept the North’s idea of ​​a nuclear power and negotiate economic concessions and concessions from a position of strength.

There are also signs that the North is rebuilding the nuclear test site, which was last active in 2017 as part of possible preparations for the resumption of nuclear explosive tests, which U.S. and South Korean officials say could take place as early as this month.

According to an analysis published Tuesday by Beyond Parallel, the latest commercial satellite imagery of the Punye-ry landfill indicates repair work and preparation in an as yet unused tunnel in the southern part of the site, which is expected to be completed for nuclear tests. , a website run by the Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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