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North Korea's COVID outbreak 'getting worse': WHO

June 2, 2022

The World Health Organization said it didn't have access to data about North Korea's COVID outbreak, but assumed that the crisis was deepening in the country.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presides over a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Pyongyang, North Korea, May 17, 2022.
The North said it has ramped up the production of medicines required for people to protect their livesImage: KCNA/REUTERS

The World Health Organization on Wednesday cast doubt on North Korea's claims of progress in the fight against a coronavirus outbreak in the reclusive East Asian nation.

Michael Ryan, the head of the emergencies program at the WHO, said they "assume the situation is getting worse, not better."

The North's state agency KCNA reported 96,610 new "fever" cases and no new deaths on Thursday, accounting for a third consecutive official daily tally of fewer than 100,000 cases.

North Korea's fight against COVID-19

But Ryan said they were not "in a position to make an adequate risk assessment of the situation on the ground" since they didn't "have access to the necessary data."

Pyongyang has also never directly confirmed the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19, worrying experts about the actual scale of the problem. 

Concern over North's unpreparedness

The WHO added it was working with the country's neighbors South Korea and China to get an actual picture of the state of affairs and that it continues to offer support with vaccines. The North is not known to have vaccinated its 25 million people.

"We have offered assistance on multiple occasions. We have offered vaccines on three separate occasions. We continue to offer," Ryan said.

North Korea locked down after reporting its first case of COVID-19 earlier in May, with leader Kim Jong Un blasting top officials of his Workers' Party for their "immature response" to the pandemic and the slow delivery of medicines.

North Korea battles coronavirus outbreak

In the days after confirming its first COVID outbreak, Pyongyang reported hundreds of thousands of cases of fever, raising alarm among public health experts who worried about the country's unpreparedness to tackle the outbreak.

Meanwhile, KCNA reported that the country has successfully put up a fight against drought and a looming food shortage, with key economic activities like rice farming having picked up pace.

KCNA reported the country had also ramped up a push to supply people with medicines they'd need to protect their life.

rm/sri (Reuters, AFP)