North Korea’s regime has claimed for quite some time that it has no cases of coronavirus. It has occasionally informed the World Health Organization that it has tested various people that month and found not a single positive case. Most recently, North Korea told WHO that 693 people had been tested for the virus, all coming up negative, while the total number since the start of the pandemic now stands at 35,947.
This hasn’t stopped North Korea from engaging in mitigation measures, although the regime has engaged in stalled negotiations about receiving vaccine doses.
Now, a new report says North Korea has developed a new way to test for the virus.
The North Korean regime has allegedly developed “ real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) coronavirus testing equipment,” and that the equipment “meets global standards,” according to a Yonhap News Agency report over the weekend, which cited North Korean state media.
“We are intensifying the struggle to strengthen antivirus measures at all levels to fight against the spread of the viral variants prevalent in many countries and regions,” the Korean Central News Agency said, as cited by Yonhap.
The report also stated that North Korea is “tightening coronavirus measures amid the global spread of the contagious lambda and delta variants.”
The real number of coronavirus cases inside North Korea remains unclear.
“News of countries vaccinating their people or life returning to normal is rarely, if ever, transmitted within North Korea, perhaps over fears that it might trigger resentment against the regime for its failure to secure shots,” Pratik Jakhar of BBC Monitoring wrote in an op-ed that was recently published by Foreign Policy. “In contrast, the propaganda apparatus has been unusually quick to report on cases rising abroad and the spread of COVID-19 variants.”
Meanwhile, the president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, said in a recent speech that he hopes the two Koreas can cooperate with each other on fighting the pandemic, possibly by getting North Korea to join the Northeast Asia Cooperation Initiative for Infectious Disease Control and Public Health.
“It is clear that the COVID-19 threat is not temporary, which makes [the initiative] even more important,” Moon said in the speech. “For us, division is the greatest obstacle to our growth and prosperity and a tenacious barrier that obstructs permanent peace,” Moon said in the speech. “We can also remove this barrier.”
The Northeast Asia Cooperation Initiative for Infectious Disease Control and Public Health, which currently consists of South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, Mongolia, and the United States, seeks to encourage “information sharing, shared stockpiling of medical supplies and joint training of COVID-19 response personnel.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.