Sat. Aug 13th, 2022

For the first time since North Korea – which is unable to confirm COVID-19 cases – revealed it had a fever outbreak, state media is reporting no new deaths and a “stable” downward trend in cases – claims doubted by experts.

North Korea’s COVID-19 wave, first declared on May 12, has fueled concerns over a lack of vaccines, inadequate medical infrastructure and a potential food crisis in the country of 25 million.

But the North said it was reporting “successes” in stemming the spread of the virus, and there were no new fever deaths reported as of Monday evening, despite officials recording 134,510 new patients.

The statistic marked a third consecutive day the daily figure stayed below 200,000.

Deprived of testing supplies, North Korea has not confirmed the total number of people testing positive for coronavirus — instead of reporting the number with fever symptoms.

People in fully body medical suits work at counter with medicines.
Pyongyang is yet to respond to offers of help from South Korea and the United States.(Reuters: Kyodo News)

The total number of such cases, tallied since late April, rose to 2.95 million, while the death toll stood at 68.

State media said the situation in the North was “clearly stable” just a few days after the activation of the maximum emergency epidemic prevention system.

“Nation the nationwide morbidity and mortality rates have drastically decreased and the number of recovered persons increased, resulting in effectively curbing and controlling the spread of the pandemic disease and maintaining the clearly stable situation,” state media said.

Is North Korea telling the truth?

Many analysts doubt the credibility of the figures, saying they only demonstrate how hard it is to assess the actual scale of the COVID-19 wave in the isolated country.

Christopher Green, a Korea specialist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said the statistics were “essentially nonsense”.

“Through a mix of inadequate testing, disincentives at lower administrative levels to report serious outbreaks, cases, deaths, and whatever political motivations the top echelons may harbor, we have stats that are essentially nonsense,” Mr Green wrote on Twitter.

Moon Jin-soo, an associate professor at Seoul National University College of Medicine, also questioned the North’s reported fatality rate of 0.002 per cent.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears on TV wearing a face mask
Tuesday marked the first day in nearly two weeks North Korea reported zero deaths. (ANTHONY WALLACE / AFP via Getty Images)

South Korea and the United States have proposed to help North Korea fight the pandemic, including with vaccines, but Pyongyang has not responded to the offer.

The North said authorities were distributing food and medicine across the country, with military medics deployed to help distribute drugs and conduct health exams.

State media also revealed that the country was expanding the production of essential medicine supplies, though it did not elaborate exactly what types were being produced.


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