North Korea COVID Wave Fuels Concerns Over Lack of Vaccines

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North Korea
Courtesy of Roman Harak (Flickr CC0)

North Korea’s announcement of a COVID wave on Friday fuels concern over inadequate medical infrastructure and food crisis in the country of 25 million people. According to the North Korean Central News Agency, health authorities identified 220,000 people showing fever symptoms.

North Korea refused outside help and kept its borders closed. They have not confirmed the total number of positive cases. Health authorities reported several fever symptoms making it difficult to assess the scale of the COVID wave.

The outbreak has caused concern about severe catastrophes in the poor, remote country with one of the world’s most flawed health care methods and an increased forbearance for its people’s misery. Experts believe North Korea is soft-pedaling the accurate scale of the virus spread, including a peculiarly small death toll, to ease the political impact on Kim as he steers the most challenging point in his decade of rule.

North Korea said over 2.4 million people have fallen ill, and 66 people have died since an unknown fever quickly began spreading in late April. However, only a handful of cases were identified as COVID-19 cases due to a shortage of testing supplies. North Korea acknowledged omicron infections last week after harboring a questionable assertion that the country perfectly blocked the virus from entering its territory for over two years.

Amid a lack of public health devices, North Korea has deployed over a million health workers to locate and isolate individuals with fevers. Kim also imposed travel restrictions between towns and cities and mobilized thousands of troops to transport medication to pharmacies in Pyongyang, the outbreak center.

North Korea
Courtesy of Stefan Krasowski (Wikimedia CC0)

During a Politburo meeting on Saturday, Kim maintained that the outbreak was contained and called to reinforce vigilance to keep the positive trend in the anti-virus campaign. And to ease his economic woes, Kim instructed his officials to vigorously revise the country’s preventative efforts and come up with various plans to revive the national economy.

Experts say Kim can not afford to put the nation to a standstill to further shock a weak economy depleted by decades of blundering, debilitating U.S.-led embargoes over nuclear weapons initiatives, and border closures. North Korea State media push for agricultural drives to protect crops during ongoing drought and food insecurity and for completing large-scale housing and construction projects crucial to Kim’s rule.

In recent years, North Korea has ignored millions of vaccine doses proposed by the U.N.-backed COVAX distribution scheme, perhaps because of international monitoring requirements. The UNICEF and WHO said North Korea has been unresponsive to their appeals for virus data or assistance propositions. Some experts say the North may be willing to tolerate a particular level of casualties to acquire immunity.

At least some of North Korea’s fever caseloads are from non-COVID-19 illnesses. But experts say the explosive virus spread and the insufficient testing to detect virus carriers show the country’s COVID-19 crisis is worse than its fever numbers. They say the nation’s fatalities would be larger than the official count, and casualties will surge in the coming weeks.

North Korea’s admission of a COVID-19 outbreak came during a streak of weapons tests, including the country’s first demonstration of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Kim pushes bluff to coerce the United States to accept North Korea as a nuclear power.

The COVID-19 and economic challenges will not slow Kim’s pressure campaign. South Korean and U.S. officials stated the possibility of another nuclear explosive test or ballistic missile test during President Joe Biden’s visits to Japan and South Korea this week.

Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Sheena Robertson


AP News: North Korea reports more fevers as Kim claims virus progress; by Kim Tong-Hyung
VOA News: North Korea Reports ‘Positive Trend’ in COVID Fight as Fever Cases Dip
Toronto: Today’s coronavirus news: North Korea reports more fevers as Kim claims virus progress

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Roman Harak’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image by Stefan Krasowsk Courtesy of Wikimedia – Wikimedia Creative Commons

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