For more than two years, North Korea claimed, in reports to the World Health Organization and otherwise, to have suffered zero cases of COVID-19. In recent weeks, the North Korean regime has at last admitted that it has a COVID problem after all, amid all indications that North Korea is unprepared to deal with the outbreak of what it calls the “fever.” On May 12, North Korea disclosed its first-ever case of the disease, leading to widespread lockdowns.
Now, the WHO itself has addressed the situation.
According to the Guardian, the WHO is indicating that it doesn’t believe North Korea’s claim that it’s making progress in the fight against the outbreak. There are no vaccines available in North Korea, nor does the country have anything resembling a first-world medical or hospital infrastructure.
“We assume the situation is getting worse, not better,” the WHO’s emergencies chief, Michael Ryan, said this week in a briefing. “We have real issues in getting access to the raw data and to the actual situation on the ground,” he added.
The WHO has been attempting to get information from China and South Korea as it tries to find ways to get aid to North Korea.
“We have offered assistance on multiple occasions. We have offered vaccines on three separate occasions. We continue to offer,” Ryan said in the briefing. "We do not wish to see intense transmission of this disease in a mainly susceptible population, in a health system that has already weakened.”
According to the newspaper, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) claimed 96,600 cases of “fever” on Thursday, bringing the total number in the country to nearly four million since the start of the outbreak.
Per Yonhap News Agency, the number of new cases in North Korea is now below 100,000 for the fourth consecutive day. On May 15, during the peak of the wave, the number of daily cases approached 400,000.
“The Cabinet and provincial people's committees have taken practical measures for ensuring the smooth supply and sale of food and prioritized the supply of food to quarantine places," the state-run KCNA news agency reported of the situation in the country.
Meanwhile, per Radio Free Asia, a Chinese medical team recently visited North Korea in order to “advise on COVID-19 containment strategies.”
“The Chinese medical experts left Pyongyang by train on the morning of May 29 and arrived in Dandong in the afternoon,” the news agency’s source said of the medical visit. “They passed on the experience and technology that China has gained about quarantine and response to the coronavirus to North Korea.”
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.