North Korea’s Kim says COVID is ‘big commotion’, 21 new deaths reported

  • Reports 21 new deaths among people with fever for Friday
  • About 280,810 people treated with symptoms -KCNA
  • Kim offers to donate medical supplies
  • An epidemic could worsen an already dire food situation

SEOUL, May 14 (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Saturday the spread of COVID-19 had thrown his country into “great turmoil” and called for an all-out battle to overcome the outbreak, while 21 new people a day deaths were reported in people with fever.

North Korea made an unprecedented admission of its first COVID outbreak this week and imposed a nationwide lockdown, after reporting no cases since the pandemic began two years ago. But there was no indication that a rigorous testing or treatment campaign was underway.

“The spread of the malignant epidemic is a great turmoil that has befallen our country since the founding,” the official KCNA news agency quoted Kim as saying during an emergency meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party in the country.

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“But if we do not lose sight of the implementation of the epidemic policy and maintain strong organizational power and control based on resolute unity of party and people and strengthen our fight against the epidemic, we can more than overcome the crisis”.

Given North Korea’s limited testing capabilities, the numbers likely represent a fraction of the total number of cases and could lead to thousands of deaths in one of only two countries without a vaccination campaign, experts said. Read more

The outbreak could also worsen an already dire food situation in the country, with the lockdown hampering drought relief efforts and labor mobilization. Read more

The Workers’ Party meeting heard reports of around 280,810 people being treated and 27 deaths since a fever of unidentified origin was reported from late April, KCNA said.

State media did not specify whether the new deaths were due to COVID. KCNA said on Friday that one death had been confirmed to be due to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The meeting also heard a report from epidemic control officials that “in most cases the casualties were caused by negligence, including drug overdose due to lack of knowledge of methods of treatment,” KCNA said.

Since late April, 524,440 people have shown signs of fever, including 174,440 new cases on Friday, KCNA said. About 243,630 have been treated, but KCNA did not say how many people were tested or confirm the total number of COVID cases.

North Korea is testing about 1,400 people a week, according to Harvard Medical School’s Kee Park, who has worked on health care projects in the country, not nearly enough to survey the hundreds of thousands of people with symptoms. Read more


Chief Kim said the health crisis was caused by the incompetence and irresponsibility of party organizations, but the transmission was not out of control and the country should have faith in its battle to overcome the crisis in the as soon as possible, KCNA said.

Kim offered to donate medical supplies, which had been kept in her home, to be used by families who are experiencing special hardship “with her resolve to always share fate with the people,” KCNA said.

Kim also said health officials should learn from the experience of other advanced countries, including China’s achievements in fighting the epidemic, KCNA said.

There have been talks of urgently distributing medicine and adopting scientific treatment for people with fever and other symptoms to minimize casualties, KCNA said.

North Korea said party officials, workers and youth continued to be mobilized for work to prevent drought damage and for planting rice in different parts of the country, the country reported separately. KCNA.

Kim had ordered economic and agricultural activities to continue when declaring a nationwide lockdown on Thursday.

North Korea has not reported the possible source of the outbreak. But a Seoul-based website that reports sources in North Korea said late Friday that some students at a university in Pyongyang tested positive after attending an event on May Day. Leader Kim also attended the event.

The students had relatives who traded with China and may have spread the virus when they later traveled to their hometown outside Pyongyang, the Daily NK website quoted a source in Pyongyang as saying. .

Reuters could not independently verify the report.

The border between North Korea and China was reopened to trade earlier this year, but in April China suspended freight services between its city of Dandong and the North Korean city of Sinuiju due to the COVID situation on his side. Read more

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Reporting by Heekyong Yang and Jack Kim; Editing by Himani Sarkar

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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