North Korea has not reported any new cases of ‘fever’ for the first time since mid-May when it suddenly announced its first local outbreak of COVID-19, and imposed strict measures to curb the spread of the virus.
On Saturday, state media reported that North Korea’s state emergency control center for epidemic control said it had not found any fever patients in the last 24 hours.
She said the total number of cases was about 4.8 million people and about 99.99 percent of patients had fully recovered. About 74 people have died from the virus, according to official figures, making North Korea’s death rate – at 0.0016 percent – the lowest in the world.
Such a low number of deaths is almost “impossible” to achieve, said Shin Young-gyun, a professor at Hanyang University School of Medicine in Seoul.
“It could result from a combination of a lack of testing capacity, accounting for problems given the fact that the elderly have higher chances of dying from COVID-19 mostly from home, and political reasons why the leadership does not want to publicize the massive death toll,” he wrote in Analysis released on Friday.
Infectious disease experts have questioned official updates on the North Korean outbreak from the start, with the World Health Organization saying last month it believed the situation was getting worse, not better, amid the absence of independent data.
Many were also concerned that an outbreak in the isolated country of 26 million people would have dire consequences because few people were vaccinated, many were undernourished, and the health system was in a dilapidated state.
“The organizational strength and unique unity of the (North Korean) society is fully demonstrated in the struggle to achieve victory in the emergency anti-epidemic campaign by fully implementing the anti-epidemic policies of the party and the state,” the official Korean Central News Agency said Saturday.
Earlier this month, Pyongyang said it was on its way to finally “defusing” the outbreak even as its neighbors resurfaced in cases driven by omicron variants.
The daily number of cases has fallen sharply in recent days with three cases reported on Friday and 11 on Thursday compared to a peak of about 400,000 cases per day in May. The state has identified only a small percentage of patients as confirmed cases of COVID-19 due to a lack of testing kits.
In a sign that the outbreak has subsided, North Korea last week held massive public events in the capital, Pyongyang, as thousands of Korean War veterans and others from across the country gathered to celebrate the 69th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. Pictures published on state media showed that few people were wearing masks.
Shin Young-gyun, a professor of preventive medicine at Hanyang University in Seoul, says North Korea knows that zero cases does not mean there is no COVID-19 due to the spread of asymptomatic cases, so it is likely not to announce that it has officially defeated the epidemic. anytime soon.
North Korea’s state media has already used expressions such as winning its battle against viruses. Shen said the only other expression they can use now is to announce the complete elimination of the Corona virus from its territory. “But if new cases emerge again, North Korea will lose face.”
Given the long and porous border with China, North Korea’s main ally, Li Yuhan, a professor at the Graduate School of Public Health in the South, said it would also likely find it difficult to declare victory over the epidemic until China did so. Korea.
The border between North Korea and China has been largely closed for more than two and a half years, except for a few months when it reopened earlier this year, and it remains unclear whether it will open.
China is currently battling a number of COVID-19 outbreaks in various cities across the country, but remains committed to its COVID-free strategy to eradicate the virus wherever it appears.
“Since the state media were also talking about the variables, whether or not they will relax virus rules and lift border closures remains to be seen,” said an official at South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which deals with cross-border relations.
The Korean Central News Agency said the mobile rapid treatment force was still on high alert and efforts were working to “discover and eliminate the epidemic” until the last patient recovered.