North Korea Covid outbreak improves as 'fever' cases dip, state media reports

Country's coronavirus wave, declared on May 12, has fuelled concerns about a lack of vaccines

An undated photo released by the official North Korean Central News Agency on May 20 shows military medics handing out supplies at a pharmacy to curb the spread of coronavirus in the capital, Pyongyang. Photo: EPA
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North Korea's daily "fever" cases dropped below 200,000, state media said on Sunday, reporting "a positive trend" after measures were taken to control the country's first acknowledged Covid-19 outbreak.

The coronavirus wave, declared on May 12, has fuelled concerns about a lack of vaccines, inadequate medical infrastructure and a potential food crisis in the country of 25 million. Pyongyang has refused most outside help, kept its borders shut and allows no independent confirmation of official data.

Apparently lacking in testing supplies, North Korea has not confirmed the total number of people testing positive for the coronavirus. Instead, the health authorities report the number with fever symptoms, making it difficult to assess the scale of the Covid wave, experts have said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks at a politburo meeting about the country's Covid-19 response. Photo: Reuters

More than 186,000 additional people had fever symptoms and one more person died, state news agency KCNA reported on Sunday. More than two million of the 2.6 million cumulative cases had recovered, the agency said. The official death toll stands at 67.

"The current situation of the epidemic spread in the DPRK shows a positive trend away from a rapid growth in the beginning to a decline after being stably controlled and managed, registering daily increased number of recoveries across the country," KCNA said, using the initials of North Korea's official name.

Employees of the Central Ideals Zoo in Pyongyang carry out disinfection work to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. Photo: AFP

Last year, North Korea said it had developed its own PCR equipment to conduct coronavirus tests. KCNA reported the country is "hastening the development of new test reagent and antibody test reagent for early detection of the epidemic".

The authorities have distributed food and medicine across the country, with military medics sent to help distribute drugs and conduct exams.

More than one million health care workers, including medical students and teachers, had been mobilised to conduct health check-ups "to thoroughly block and eradicate the source of spread," the report added.

Updated: May 22, 2022, 10:34 AM