North Korea’s COVID count nears 2 million

North Korea’s COVID-19 outbreak rose to nearly 2 million as of Thursday, exactly a week after the Hermit Kingdom admitted its first-ever case.

The mystery nation – which until last week dubiously claimed to have fully escaped COVID for two and a half years – confirmed 262,270 more cases on Thursday.

The number rose to more than 1.98 million with fever, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

But experts believe the number is likely to be far higher given the isolated nation’s lack of testing capabilities – and the death toll is also likely to skyrocket due to a lack of essential medical supplies and intensive care units.

The outbreak began in late April and spread after despot Kim Jong Un oversaw a huge parade celebrating his state-founding grandfather’s 110th birthday, South Korea’s Newsis news agency said, citing lawmakers briefed by Seoul’s spy agency.

A doctor takes a resident's temperature.
North Korea admitted the first case of COVID-19 in the country last week.
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP
Members of the North Korean army provide the residents with medicine.
More than 1.98 million North Koreans are reported to have contracted the fever.
Kyodo via REUTERS
A worker in protective gear stands on an empty sidewalk.
At least 740,160 people are in quarantine.
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

At least 740,160 people are also in quarantine, the agency said — with images showing health workers in hazmat suits guarding Pyongyang’s cordoned-off streets, disinfecting buildings and roads and delivering food and other supplies to apartment blocks.

Despite the surge in cases, the kingdom’s anti-virus headquarters reported just one additional death, bringing the death toll to just 63, an unusually low number compared to suspected infections, experts have noted.

Kee Park, a global health expert at Harvard Medical School who has worked on health projects in North Korea, has predicted tens of thousands could eventually die.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (centre) visits a pharmacy in Pyongyang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a pharmacy in Pyongyang.
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP
A doctor visits a family during an activity to raise public awareness of COVID-19 prevention measures.
North Korea’s anti-virus headquarters reported a death toll of just 63.
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

Authoritarian leader Kim has described the outbreak as a “major upheaval” and berated officials for allowing the virus to spread and restricting the movement of people and supplies between cities and regions.

Experts say the country cannot afford a lockdown as the economy has already collapsed from mismanagement, crippling US-led sanctions over Kim’s nuclear weapons ambitions and pandemic border closures.

The country has shunned millions of vaccines being offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program, likely due to international surveillance requirements needed to get the shots.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (left) gives a speech.
Kim Jong Un berated North Korean officials for allowing the virus to spread.
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP
Staff disinfect the premises.
North Korea has shunned millions of vaccines offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program.
KCNA/EPO
Servicemen from the Korean People's Army Medical Corps participate in the launch of a campaign to improve drug supplies.
Servicemen from the Korean People’s Army Medical Corps participate in the launch of a campaign to improve drug supplies.
EyePress News/Shutterstock

It has also ignored offers of help from South Korea and the US to contain the outbreak, according to Kim Tae-hyo, deputy national security adviser to South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.

Experts have said North Korea may be more willing to accept help from China, its key ally.

With postal wires

https://nypost.com/2022/05/19/north-koreas-covid-tally-nears-2-million/ North Korea’s COVID count nears 2 million

JACLYN DIAZ

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