North Korea claims ‘positive trend’ for Covid outbreak but doesn’t respond to Biden’s offer of help

The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Friday to Saturday there were 186,090 new cases, 299,180 recoveries and one death.

If true, that figure would be a notable drop – the country has been reporting more than 200,000 so-called “fever cases” daily over the past week in an outbreak that has infected more than 2.5 million people and killed 67 others. to the official numbers.

However, given the lack of independent reporting in North Korea, it is difficult to verify the numbers, and there has long been widespread skepticism about Covid reporting in the country.

Before the current outbreak was announced earlier this month, North Korea claimed it did not have Covid. Earlier this month, the country of 25 million reported its first cases, calling the outbreak “explosive”, raising concerns about the ability of the country’s dilapidated health infrastructure to deal with the situation.

North Korea is known not to have imported any coronavirus vaccines and has previously turned down offers, such as one from China last year, to provide nearly three million doses of its Sinovac shots.

On Monday, three North Korean cargo planes flew to and from China, a South Korean government official with knowledge of the matter said. It is not known what the planes were carrying, but the rare trip took place after China pledged to help North Korea fight the Covid outbreak.

US President Joe Biden, who is currently visiting South Korea as part of his first trip to Asia, said on Saturday that the US had also offered to provide vaccines to North Korea, but Pyongyang did not respond.

A senior US administration official said on Sunday that Covid restrictions could play a role in Pyongyang’s lack of response to talks, Reuters reported.

Some analysts have suggested that Pyongyang’s sudden openness to its Covid concerns may have been influenced by the timing of Biden’s trip and his meeting with South Korea’s new president, Yoon Seok-yeol.

“The fact that Kim Jong-un has chosen to publicly announce this health crisis speaks volumes,” Lina Yun, senior fellow for Korea at Human Rights Watch, told CNN. “(It) could have a political element, obviously.”

North Korean state media says the outbreak peaked on Monday with more than 390,000 new cases. After “quick growth at the beginning”, the outbreak is now on the wane, it is said, “after stable control and management”.

Among the actions attributed to the KCNA were “intense disinfection efforts” by nearly 200,000 medical and epidemic workers at about 100,000 locations across the country, including treatment plants and wastewater treatment plants.

It also says military medics have been deployed to 670 pharmacies in Pyongyang to deliver medicines around the clock, and “about 20 mobile emergency medical service centers” have been set up to “deliver medicines faster and more accurately.”

North Korea’s current problems are not limited to the outbreak. There have also been speculations that it is facing widespread food shortages, partly caused by strict border restrictions that were supposed to prevent the virus from entering.

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