As hundreds of thousands in North Korea battle ‘fever,’ China joins the WHO and South Korea in extending COVID-19 assistance. On May 12, Beijing’s foreign ministry reaffirmed its support, although it is unclear what form the prospective assistance will take or when it will arrive. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un declared the country’s first COVID-19 outbreak a “great disaster” on May 14, after the regime reported 21 more deaths.

As the country scrambles to curb the spread of COVID-19 among its unvaccinated populace, state media reported that 174,440 persons were freshly discovered with fever symptoms on May 14. North Korea announced on May 14 that 27 people had died and 524,440 had become ill as a result of a rapid spread of fever since late April. According to the report, 280,810 people are still in quarantine.

Kim described the outbreak as a historically “huge disruption” during a meeting on anti-virus strategies on May 14, calling for unity between the government and the people to stabilise the outbreak as soon as possible. According to KCNA, the meeting discussed “promptly distributing emergency drugs” and introducing “scientific treatment tactics and treatment methods for various patients, including those with special constitutions.”

North Korea to follow Chinese virus prevention model

The country declared a state of emergency on May 12 after confirming the first COVID-19 infections since the outbreak began. Kim stated that they would follow the Chinese virus prevention model. He said, “We should take lessons from the experiences and fruitful achievements in preventing virus of the China’s Communist party and its people.” Further, according to the state media, tests of virus samples collected from an unspecified number of people with fevers in Pyongyang confirmed they were infected with the Omicron variant.

Moreover, experts believe that failure to control the spread of COVID could have disastrous consequences in North Korea, given the country’s poor healthcare system and the fact that its 26 million people are largely unvaccinated. North Korea has so far rejected offers of COVID vaccines from China and Russia, as well as through the World Health Organization’s Covax programme, ostensibly because administering the vaccines would necessitate outside monitoring.

(With agency inputs)