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North Korea reports another jump in suspected COVID-19 cases; death toll at 62

A failure to control the outbreak could have dire consequences in North Korea, considering its broken health care system and its rejection of internationally offered vaccines that has left a population of 26 million unimmunized.

Vani Mehrotra Edited by: Vani Mehrotra @vani_mehrotra New Delhi Published on: May 18, 2022 7:02 IST
North Korea covid19 cases
Image Source : AP

N Korea reports another jump in suspected COVID-19 cases

Highlights

  • More than a million people have recovered but at least 691,170 remain in quarantine
  • Outside experts say most of the illnesses would be COVID-19, which North Korea is yet to confirm
  • The pandemic has further damaged an economy already broken by mismanagement and US-led sanctions

Amid Kim Jong Un accusing officials of “immaturity” and “slackness” in handling the escalating COVID-19 outbreak ravaging the unvaccinated nation, North Korea on Wednesday reported 2,32,880 new cases of fever and another six deaths. The country's anti-virus headquarters said 62 people have died and more than 1.7 million have fallen ill amid a rapid spread of fever since late April. It said more than a million people recovered but at least 691,170 remain in quarantine.

Outside experts say most of the illnesses would be COVID-19, although North Korea has been able to confirm only a small number of COVID-19 cases since acknowledging an omicron outbreak last week, likely because of insufficient testing capabilities.

A failure to control the outbreak could have dire consequences in North Korea, considering its broken health care system and its rejection of internationally offered vaccines that has left a population of 26 million unimmunized.

The outbreak is almost certainly greater than the fever tally, considering the lack of tests and resources to monitor the sick, and there's also suspicion that North Korea is underreporting deaths to soften the blow for Kim, who already was navigating the toughest moment of his decade in power.

The pandemic has further damaged an economy already broken by mismanagement and US-led sanctions over Kim's nuclear weapons and missiles development.

Before acknowledging COVID-19 infections last Thursday, North Korea had insisted of a perfect record in keeping out the virus that has reached nearly every corner of the world, a claim that was widely doubted. 

Kim's government had shunned millions of vaccine shots offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program, likely because of international monitoring requirements attached to them.

(With inputs from AP)

Also Read | North Korea confirms its first ever COVID-19 case; Kim Jong Un orders nationwide lockdown

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