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Coronavirus digest: North Korea tells WHO it has no COVID cases

Pyongyang has told the World Health Organization it has yet to find a single coronavirus infection. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to arrest people who refuse a vaccine. Follow DW for the latest.

People walk through a square in Pyongyang. File photo from May 2021.

The secretive dictatorship claims it has not identified a single case

North Korea has told the World Health Organization (WHO)  that it has tested more than 30,000 people for COVID-19 up to June 10 but that it has not yet found a single case of the virus. 

In a monitoring report, the WHO said North Korea's testing numbers included 733 people who were tested during June 4 to 10, of whom 149 had exhibited influenza-like symptoms or severe respiratory infections.

The isolated and secretive dictatorship has banned tourists, jetted out diplomats and severely restricted cross-border traffic and trade to stop the virus from reaching the country.

But many experts doubt North Korea's claim that it has not found a single case of the virus.

They say the country's poor health infrastructure and porous border with China — its major ally and economic lifeline — mean that some people would have caught the infection.

North Korea's population is estimated at about 25 million, meaning that barely one in 1,000 people have been tested.

Here's a roundup of the major coronavirus developments around the world:

Asia and Oceania

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to order the arrest of anyone refusing COVID-19 vaccinations.

"Don't get me wrong. There is a crisis being faced in this country. There is a national emergency. If you don't want to get vaccinated, I'll have you arrested and I'll inject the vaccine in your butt,'' Duterte said in televised remarks.

"If you will not agree to be vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want or somewhere, to America,'' he said, adding that he would order village leaders to gather a list of uncooperative residents.

A worker unloads a box of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from a Chinese military aircraft

The president of the Philippines urged people to get vaccinated using characteristically strong language

Pakistan has reached a deal to procure 13 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from BioNTech-Pfizer, according to the health minister.

The doses are set to arrive by the end of 2021, although an exact timeline is not yet available, Health Minister Faisal Sultan told Reuters news agency.

The South Pacific archipelago nation of Fiji is experiencing an intensifying coronavirus outbreak.

The country has reported 180 new cases reported on Tuesday. The current outbreak began in April and has resulted in seven deaths and numerous restrictions, although so far the island nation has resisted a nationwide lockdown.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said this week that it was providing an additional 10 million New Zealand dollars ($7 million, €5.9 million) for COVID-19 operations and food supplies in Fiji.

Europe

Germany's seven-day incidence, which measures the number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people within a week, has fallen to 8.0, according to the country's Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

Authorities reported 455 new cases and 77 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours on Tuesday, the RKI added.

Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the fall in infections but warned that the pandemic is not yet over. A government spokesperson also announced on Tuesday that the German leader has recently received her second vaccine dose. She went with Moderna for the second shot after receiving AstraZeneca for the first.

Amid falling numbers and the lifting of restrictions, the retail sector is making up for lost ground. Last week, retail sales in city centers recovered to 8% below pre-crisis levels, Stefan Genth, CEO of the German Retail Association (HDE), said.

Watch video 04:09

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Italy is scrapping mandatory masks outdoors from June 28, the government has announced.

Mandatory masks were imposed in October last year amid a second infection wave. Now COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are in decline and the government has been steadily lifting restrictions since April.

Russia reported 546 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday, the most in a single day since February. The number came amid a surge in new cases that authorities have blamed on the new variant nicknamed delta.

The government's coronavirus taskforce reported 16,715 new cases in the last 24 hours, including 6,555 in Moscow.

Watch video 03:15

Moscow's vaccine uptake slow despite rising cases

Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister warned of a new coronavirus outbreak — likely of the delta variant — on Tuesday after a rise in infections was recorded among travelers.

While 55% of the country's population has already been fully vaccinated, Israel reported its highest number of new infections since April with some vaccinated individuals among the new cases.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Tuesday that the first locally developed vaccine would be called Turkovac on the same day that the first dose of the first phase trial was administered to a male volunteer.

Watch video 03:08

Turkey: Children lose 1 school year to COVID-19

Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi pledged on Tuesday to speed up the country's lacklustre vaccination program in an attempt to relaunch Iran's faltering economy.

The Islamic Republic will rely on three possible homegrown vaccines as well as imported Sputnik V doses and doses of Cuban-developed vaccines if necessary, government spokesperson Ali Rabiei said.

Americas

The US government said on Tuesday that it was increasing efforts to vaccinate young adults as the country observes a concerning spread of the so-called delta variant that now makes up some 20% of the COVID-19 infections recorded in the country.

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera said on Tuesday that his health authorities were considering the option of administering people with a third COVID-19 vaccine shot amid concerns over the effectiveness of the Sinovac vaccine that has fueled the South American country's rapid vaccination program.

Watch video 02:16

‘Wealthier' Indonesians travel to US for COVID jab

kmm,mvb/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)