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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Explainer: What’s behind North Korea’s COVID-19 admission?

By Heung-jin Kim and Kim Tong-hyung

Seoul, South Korea ( Associated Press) — Before admitting its first domestic COVID-19 cases, North Korea spent 2 1/2 years rejecting outlandish proposals for vaccines and assertively claiming that its superior socialist system was in its 26 million people from “a malicious virus”. Which killed millions of people around the world.

Its surprise admission this week has left many outsiders wondering how bad things really are, and there is growing concern that it could lead to a major humanitarian crisis in a country with the world’s worst public medical infrastructure.

Because the North has been closed since the beginning of 2020, with no journalists, aid workers or diplomats visiting regularly, reading the situation is a guessing game, and the North is in its state media with widespread feverish descriptions. with is unclear. But there are some worrying facts: no reported vaccines, very limited testing capacity, a dire medical system, and widespread poverty.

Without immediate external aid shipments, some experts say North Korea could face massive fatalities and infection rates. Others, however, say North Korea is using its admission of the outbreak to rally the public against the virus and increase control over its people.

Here’s a look at what a lockdown might look like in one of the world’s most closed countries.


What is known about Outbreak?

North Korea announced on Thursday that an unspecified number of people in Pyongyang tested positive for the Omicron variant. It called the outbreak the state’s “severe emergency”.

However, this was unclear, and the media of the North used ambiguous language.

A “fever” has been spreading “explosively” since late April, state media reports said on Friday, killing six people, sickening 350,000 and leaving 187,800 in quarantine. He said one of the dead was diagnosed with an Omicron variant.

The report said that the cause of fever is not yet known.

Kim Sin-gon, a professor at Seoul’s Korea University College of Medicine, said most people with fever were virus patients. He said North Korea has a limited number of COVID-19 test kits.

The World Health Organization says North Korea has reported testing 64,200 people since the start of the pandemic, an extremely low number compared to other countries. The number of COVID-19 tests in South Korea is around 172 million.

North Korea’s outbreak may be linked to a massive military parade on April 25, where leader Kim Jong Un spoke about his nuclear weapons in front of thousands of Pyongyang residents and soldiers. The Omicron virus could enter North Korea on its northern border with China when rail freight traffic between the two countries reopened in January. The border has since been closed.


What are the challenges?

The outbreak could be devastating as North Koreans largely live without vaccinations and suffer from chronic shortages of medicine and medical equipment.

“North Korea has many vulnerable people who do not have strong immune systems. Its official vaccination rate is zero and there are no COVID-19 treatment pills,” said Kim, prof. “North Korea is the world for its population size. could end up with the worst death and infection rates of the pandemic in the U.S.” without outside support.

In many advanced countries, Omicron has caused significantly fewer hospitalizations and deaths than previous coronavirus variants, but it is mostly due to vaccination, the use of COVID-19 antiviral pills, effective treatment in intensive care units, and exposure to the virus. Because of the population. before this. None of this applies to North Korea, said Jang Jae-hyun, a professor of preventive medicine at Gachon University in South Korea.

“We were talking about a 0.1% fatality rate for Omicron in South Korea, but it is going to be significantly higher in North Korea, possibly even reaching 1%, although it is difficult to predict precisely at this point. ,” said Jung.

The secretive nature of North Korea makes it nearly impossible to ascertain the true scale of its outbreak and how it will develop.

According to Ahn Kyung-su, head of DPRKHEALTH.ORG, a website that focuses on health issues in North Korea, many North Koreans have adjusted to living with a troubled medical system and buying medicine privately.

While North Korea may not have escaped mass infection, Ah said it is likely to avoid a “catastrophic” death like the hundreds of thousands of deaths during the famine in the mid-1990s.


How is North Korea reacting?

Beginning Thursday, North Korea has imposed a nationwide lockdown, isolating all work and residential units from each other. But there are signs that the country may be trying to live with the virus to some extent.

Kim Jong Un still ordered officials to proceed with construction, agriculture and other scheduled state projects. On Thursday afternoon, the country also tested three ballistic missiles, suggesting it would continue its recent streak of weapons testing.

Hong Min, an analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification, said North Korea’s pandemic response will mostly be about isolating people with symptoms in shelters. He said North Korea does not have the resources to impose an extreme lockdown like China, which has locked down entire cities and confined residents to their homes. It is also concerned about further damage to an already fragile economy.

Ahn said the stringent anti-virus measures would not be much different from previous restrictions and that it was mostly meant to be rhetorical pressing people weary of long-running pandemic restrictions to maintain their vigil amid rising cases in neighboring China. Go.

Yang Un-chul, an analyst at the private Sejong Institute, said North Korea could use its response to the pandemic to increase control over its people. Yang said that if North Korea really wanted to defend itself against the virus, it would have received previous external vaccine shipment offers.


What are the possibilities for outside help?

The outbreak expected North Korea to accept outbound shipments of vaccines, COVID-19 treatment pills and other medical supplies.

Professor Kim said North Korea would not seek such help directly, but would rather see how Seoul and Washington respond first.

Other experts say North Korea may think that isolating people with symptoms is the only realistic option, given its shortcomings in hospital infrastructure and medical supplies, which are difficult to address without widespread outside help. Will be – something that North Korea is unlikely to accept.

Jung said North Korea’s only meaningful help is its limited supply of vaccines for the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions, as it is too late to vaccinate the country’s entire population.

Hong said North Korea’s moves to pursue its goals of improving its economy and military despite the outbreak suggest that the country is trying to achieve a certain level of immunity through infection rather than receiving vaccines and other outside help. ready to accept his death.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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