North Korea's Sudden COVID Spike Is Looking Grim

'Fever' has spread across the country 'explosively' since late April
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 16, 2022 12:25 AM CDT
Updated May 16, 2022 7:11 AM CDT
North Korea Confirms 15 More Deaths of 'Fever' Patients
People watch a TV screen showing a news report about the COVID-19 outbreak in North Korea, at a train station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, May 14, 2022.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

(Newser) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un criticized officials over slow medicine deliveries and mobilized the military to respond to a surge in suspected COVID-19 infections, as his nation struggled to contain a fever that has reportedly killed dozens and sickened nearly a million others in a span of three days. North Korean health authorities said Monday that eight more people died and an additional 392,920 were newly found to have feverish symptoms, reports the AP. That brings the death toll to 50 and illnesses to more than 1.2 million, respectively. It’s a sharp jump from six dead and 350,000 sick reported last Friday, a day after the North said that it found its first COVID-19 patients since the pandemic began. Kim has acknowledged that the fast-spreading fever, highly likely driven by COVID-19, is causing “great upheaval” in the country, and outside experts say the true scale of the outbreak is likely much bigger than what’s been described in the state-controlled media. Pyongyang said a fever has spread “explosively” since late April but hasn’t disclosed exactly how many COVID-19 cases were found.

Some experts say North Korea lacks the diagnostic kits needed to test a large number of suspected COVID-19 patients. The outbreak has triggered concern about a humanitarian crisis in North Korea because most of the country’s 26 million people are believed to be unvaccinated against the coronavirus and its public health care system has been in shambles for decades. Some experts say North Korea might suffer huge fatalities if it doesn’t immediately receive outside shipments of vaccines, medicines, and other medical supplies. Since Thursday, North Korea has imposed a nationwide lockdown. That could further strain the country’s fragile economy, which has suffered in recent years due to sharply reduced external trade caused by pandemic-related border shutdowns, punishing UN economic sanctions over its nuclear program, and its own mismanagement.

During a meeting on the outbreak Saturday, Kim described the outbreak as a historically “great upheaval” and called for unity between the government and people to stabilize the outbreak as quickly as possible. Then, during a ruling party Politburo meeting on Sunday, Kim criticized government and health officials over what he portrayed as a botched pandemic response, saying medicine supplies aren’t being distributed to pharmacies in time because of their “irresponsible work attitude” and lack of organization, the KCNA said. South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol said in Parliament on Monday that the South was willing to send vaccines, medicine, equipment, and health personnel to the North if it’s willing to accept. South Korean officials say Pyongyang so far has made no request for Seoul’s help.

(Read more North Korea stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
X
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.

X