The spread of the virus may have been facilitated by a massive military parade on April 25, where Kim delivered a speech and demonstrated his army and weapons to thousands of people.

SEOUL, South Korea – Six people have died and 350,000 have been treated for the fever that “explosively” spread across North Korea, state media reported on Friday, the day after the country first recognized a COVID-19 outbreak in a pandemic. .

North Korea probably does not have enough tests for COVID-19 and said it did not know the causes of the mass fever. But a major coronavirus outbreak could be devastating in a country with a devastated health care system and an unvaccinated, malnourished population.

The North Korean Central News Agency reported that of the 350,000 people who have developed a fever since late April, about 200 have been cured. It is noted that only on Thursday, 18,000 people showed symptoms of fever, and 187,800 were isolated for treatment.

One in six people who died was infected with the omicron variant, according to KCNA. But it was not immediately clear how many of the total diseases were COVID-19.

North Korea imposed a blockade on Thursday after recognizing the first cases of COVID-19. These reports say tests of an indefinite number of people have tested positive for the omicron variant.

It is unusual for an isolated North Korea to recognize an outbreak of an infectious disease, let alone as threatening as COVID-19, because it is very proud and sensitive to the outward perception of its self-described “socialist utopia.”

Although North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has sometimes been candid about the deteriorating economy and other problems, he has repeatedly expressed confidence in responding to the pandemic and was not seen in a public mask until Thursday.

State television showed Kim in a mask when he went in for what the broadcast described as the country’s headquarters for fighting the pandemic, which seemed to be Pyongyang’s iconic Koryo Hotel. During a conversation with officials, he took off his mask and smoked a cigarette.

The KCNA said Kim criticized officials for failing to prevent a “vulnerable point in the epidemic prevention system.” He said the outbreak was centered around the capital Pyongyang, and stressed that all work and living quarters should be isolated from each other and residents should be provided with all amenities during the closure.

“The most important task and the highest task facing our party is to break the immediate public health crisis in the early stages, restore stability to prevent epidemics and protect the health and well-being of our people,” Kim was quoted as saying by KCNA.

The spread of the virus may have been accelerated by a mass military parade on April 25, where Kim delivered a speech and demonstrated his army and weapons to tens of thousands of people.

Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, said the rate of the fever spread suggests that the crisis could last several months and possibly until 2023, causing serious disruptions in a poorly equipped country.

According to the latest World Health Organization data, North Korea told the UN that it tested 64,207 people at COVID-19 in 2020 through March 22 this year, a small number that may indicate a lack of tests for a population of 26 million.

North Korea also lacks vaccines, antiviral pills from COVID-19 and probably very few intensive care units to treat serious cases, which could cause higher death rates than other countries, experts say.

Midnight last year shunned The millions of injections offered by the UN-supported COVAX distribution program, including doses of AstraZeneca vaccines and Chinese Sinovac vaccines, may be due to questions about their effectiveness and reluctance to accept monitoring requirements. The country lacks the extremely cold storage systems needed for mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna, which have shown higher rates of preventing infection, serious illness and death even against new options such as omicron.

The office of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yol, who took office on Tuesday, said his government was ready to provide medical supplies and hoped to talk to the North about concrete plans. It says the North has not yet asked for her help.

Cha Deok Chhol, a spokesman for the South Korean Association of Inter-Korean Affairs, said Seoul did not have an immediate estimate of the number of vaccine doses it could offer North Korea.

Inter-Korean relations have deteriorated over the past three years as larger-scale nuclear talks remain deadlocked as they have been disrupted by disagreements over U.S.-led sanctions and North disarmament steps.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing was ready to offer North Korea assistance, but said it had no information about such a request. Asked whether China would evacuate its citizens from North Korea, Zhao said Beijing would closely monitor the situation and keep in touch with the North to ensure the health and safety of Chinese citizens.

North Korea’s claim of an ideal record in virus conservation for 2 1/2 years has caused widespread doubt. But its extremely strict border closures, large-scale quarantines and propaganda that highlighted anti-virus controls as a matter of “national existence” may still have prevented a huge outbreak.

Hours after the outbreak was confirmed, North Korea launched three short-range launches ballistic missiles to the sea in a clear display of strength. It was the North’s 16th round of missile launches this year as it aimed to put pressure on the United States to accept the country’s idea as a nuclear power. He also seeks to negotiate the lifting of sanctions and other concessions from a position of strength.

There are also signs that North Korea is rebuilding tunnels at the nuclear test site, which was last active in 2017 as part of possible preparations for the resumption of nuclear tests, which U.S. and South Korean officials say could take place as early as this month.

Citing North Korea’s rejection of COVAX vaccines, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States supports international aid but has no plans to share its vaccine supplies with the North.

“We continue to support international efforts to provide important humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable North Koreans, and this is certainly the wider part of the DPRK that continues to exploit its own citizens by not accepting this type of assistance,” Psaki said in Washington on Thursday, using initials the official name of North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“It’s not just vaccines. It is also a series of humanitarian aid that can greatly help the people and the country, and instead they are diverting resources to build their own illegal nuclear and ballistic missiles. ”

Associated Press writer Darlene Superville of Washington contributed to this report.

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