The World Health Organization expressed regret on Wednesday that it did not have access to data on North Korea’s Covid-19 outbreak, but assumed the crisis was worsening, despite Pyongyang’s claims of “progress.”
North Korea, which reported its first coronavirus cases on May 12, said last week that its Covid outbreak was under control, with state media reporting a drop in caseloads.
However, WHO Director of Emergencies Michael Ryan questioned that claim.
“We believe the situation is deteriorating, not improving,” he told reporters, acknowledging that the secretive totalitarian state had provided only limited information.
“Right now, we are not in a position to make an adequate risk assessment of the situation on the ground,” he explained, adding that “it is extremely difficult to provide a proper analysis to the world when we do not have access to the necessary data.”
Meanwhile, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s Covid-19 lead, said the country had registered more than three million suspected Covid cases, despite official accounts only mentioning cases of “fever.”
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported 96,600 “fevered cases” in 24 hours early Thursday, for a total of 3.8 million cases since late April. There were no new deaths announced, bringing the total to 69 as of late last week.
According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, it was the third consecutive daily tally of less than 100,000, down from a high of 390,000 daily cases in mid-May.
Despite having one of the world’s worst health-care systems, KCNA reported on Thursday that more than 95 percent of cases had recovered.
“Many recoveries have been reported, but we currently have limited information from the country,” Van Kerkhove said.
North Korea has also refused WHO vaccines and has not vaccinated any of its roughly 25 million people.
Ryan emphasized the significance of containing the outbreak in the impoverished country.
“We have offered help on numerous occasions. We have provided vaccines on three occasions. We will continue to provide, “He stated.
The WHO has repeatedly warned against allowing the virus that causes Covid-19 to spread unchecked, citing the increased risk of mutating and producing new, potentially more dangerous variants.
“We do not want to see widespread transmission of this disease in a mostly vulnerable population, in an already weakened health system,” Ryan said.
“This is not beneficial to the people of (North Korea). This is bad for the region. This is bad for the world.”
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