North Korea on May 21 reported more than 200,000 new patients suffering from fever for a fifth consecutive day, as the country fought its first confirmed coronavirus outbreak.
Standing tall in bright red hazmat suits, five North Korean health workers stride towards an ambulance to do battle with a COVID-19 outbreak that – in the presumed absence of vaccines – the country is using antibiotics and home remedies to treat. The isolated state is one of only two countries yet to begin a vaccination campaign and, until last week, had insisted it was COVID-free. Now North Korea is mobilizing forces including the army and a public information campaign to combat what authorities have acknowledged is an “explosive” outbreak.
Leader Kim Jong Un ordered North Korea’s military to stabilize distribution of COVID-19 medicine in the capital, Pyongyang, in the battle against the country’s first confirmed outbreak of the disease, state media said.
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North Korea’s admission that it is battling an “explosive” COVID-19 outbreak raised concerns that the virus could devastate a country with an under-resourced health system, limited testing capabilities, and no vaccine program.
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At least one person confirmed to have COVID-19 has died in North Korea and hundreds of thousands have shown fever symptoms, state media said on May 13, offering hints at the potentially dire scale of the country’s first confirmed outbreak of the pandemic.
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North Korea reported the country’s first COVID-19 outbreak on May 12, calling it the “gravest national emergency” and ordering a national lockdown, with state media saying an Omicron variant had been detected in the capital, Pyongyang.
South Korea’s intelligence agency said North Korea attempted to steal information on coronavirus vaccines and treatments by hacking Pfizer Inc., a lawmaker briefed by the agency said.
Despite infecting more than 3 million people around the world, there are 34 countries and territories that have not reported a single case of the novel coronavirus.
The escalating threat of a potential nuclear war between North Korea and the United States has led the Department of Defense to join hands with a clutch of companies in developing more effective medical treatments for acute radiation syndrome.