North Korea reports more deaths, says to take ‘rapid measures’ against COVID outbreak

SEOUL, May 15 (Reuters) – North Korea said on Sunday that a total of 42 people had died as the country began its fourth day under a nationwide lockdown to stop the impoverished country’s first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak.

North Korea’s admission Thursday that it is battling an “explosive” COVID-19 outbreak has raised concerns that the virus could devastate a country with an understaffed health system, limited testing capabilities and no vaccine program. read more

State news agency KCNA said the country was taking “quick state emergency measures” to bring the epidemic under control, but there are no signs Pyongyang was going to accept international offers of vaccines.

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“All provinces, cities and counties of the country have been completely shut down and work units, production units and residential units have been closed from each other since the morning of May 12 and strict and intensive investigations are being carried out on all people,” KCNA reported. on Sunday.

A day earlier, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the spread of COVID-19 had thrown his country into “great turmoil” and called for an all-out battle to overcome the outbreak. read more

Despite the lockdowns, Kim and other senior officials attended funeral services on Saturday for Yang Hyong Sop, a former head of state during the reign of Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, KCNA reported.

Health authorities set up more mail to prevent epidemics and urgently transport medical supplies to hospitals and clinics, while senior officials had donated spare drugs, KCNA reported.

A “large proportion” of deaths are attributable to people “careless in taking drugs due to lack of knowledge and understanding of stealth Omicron variant virus infectious disease and proper treatment method,” the report said.

Korean Central Television broadcasted treatments against the fever on Saturday evening. A doctor at Kimmanyu Hospital suggested “gargling with salt water” and taking various medications in case of high temperature, headache, and muscle and joint pain.

KCNA also suggested drinking lonicera japonica tea or willow leaf tea three times a day.

At least 296,180 people developed fever symptoms and 15 more had died on Sunday, the outlet said.

Experts say North Korea appears unable to test those tens of thousands of symptomatic patients. KCNA did not report how many of those suspected cases had tested positive for COVID-19.

In all, North Korea has reported 820,620 suspected cases, of which 324,550 are still under medical treatment, KCNA said.

North Korea had previously claimed no confirmed cases of the virus and is one of only two countries in the world to begin a COVID vaccination campaign, according to the World Health Organization.

The self-imposed lockdowns have slowed trade to a trickle and raised concerns about food shortages or other hardships, aid groups said. read more

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Reporting by Josh Smith and Byungwook Kim; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Richard Chang and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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