North Korea reports first COVID-19 death after 350,000 sick with fever

SEOUL, May 13 (Reuters) – At least one person confirmed to have COVID-19 has died in North Korea and hundreds of thousands have shown fever symptoms, state media said Friday, hinting at the potentially serious scale of the first confirmed outbreak of the country of the pandemic.

About 187,800 people are being treated in isolation after fevers of unknown origin “spread explosively across the country since late April,” the official KCNA news agency reported.

About 350,000 people have shown signs of that fever, including 18,000 who reported new symptoms on Thursday, KCNA said. About 162,200 have been treated, but it did not specify how many had tested positive for COVID-19.

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At least six people who showed fever symptoms died, and one of those cases confirmed they had contracted the Omicron variant of the virus, KCNA said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the antivirus command center on Thursday to monitor the situation and responses after he declared a “serious state of emergency” and ordered a national lockdown on Thursday. read more

North Korea said the outbreak began in the capital Pyongyang in April. State media did not elaborate on the cause of the outbreak, but the city staged several massive public events on April 15 and 25, including a military parade and large gatherings where most people did not wear masks.

Kim “criticized that the simultaneous spread of fever with the capital as the center shows that there is a vulnerability in the epidemic prevention system we have already set up,” KCNA said.

Kim said actively isolating and treating people with fevers is a top priority, while calling for scientific treatment methods and tactics “at a breakneck pace” and strengthening measures to deliver medication.

In another post, KCNA said health authorities were trying to organize testing and treatment systems and strengthen disinfection efforts.

The rapid spread of the virus highlights the potential for a major crisis in a country that lacks medical resources, has refused international assistance with vaccinations and closed its borders.

Analysts said the outbreak could threaten the isolated country’s already difficult food situation this year, as the lockdown would hamper its “overall battle” against drought and labor mobilization. read more

North Korea had refused to supply vaccines from the COVAX Global Exchange Program and China, potentially putting the vast majority of people in a relatively young society at greater risk of infection.

Kwon Young-se, South Korea’s new candidate to become minister for unification and responsible for inter-Korean ties, said during his confirmation hearing on Thursday that he was ready to push for humanitarian aid for the north, including COVID treatment. , syringes and other medical supplies.

A spokesman for the US State Department said it had no plans to send vaccines to North Korea but supported international efforts to provide aid to vulnerable people there, urging Pyongyang to facilitate that work.

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Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith; Editing by Leslie Adler, Alistair Bell and David Gregorio

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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