Fever cases rises above 100,000 in North Korea after discussion on revising curbs

The upward trend in the country’s Covid-19 cases is noteworthy given South Korean media has reported North Korea had partially lifted its lockdown measures in the capital on May 29.

Ji Da-gyum

Ji Da-gyum

The Korea Herald


A photo released by the North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on 20 Mayshows medical service personnel in the military handing out medical supplies at a pharmacy to curb the current coronavirus disease health crisis in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Yonhap)

May 31, 2022

North Korea’s – suspected new COVID-19 cases on Sunday rose above 100,000 after the country discussed potential adjustments to antivirus measures and reportedly lifted lockdown restrictions in the capital Pyongyang.

The state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters reported around 100,710 more people with feverish symptoms in the 24 hours up to 6 p.m. on Sunday, North Korea’s state media reported Monday.

The total caseload of fever cases came to 3,549,590 as of Sunday afternoon, which accounts for around 13 percent of North Korea’s total population. The official death toll increased to 70.

North Korea has solely reported the number of fever cases and deaths among people with fever symptoms partially due to the lack of diagnostic devices since the country admitted to a COVID-19 outbreak and the detection of the BA.2 subvariant of omicron on May 12.

North Korea’s daily new fever cases dropped below 100,000 on Friday and Saturday while the country maintained a downward trend from May 19 to 27. But The daily tally on Saturday slightly increased by 980 from the previous day to 89,500.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry on Monday said North Korea’s official statistics show that the COVID-19 pandemic situation “has been improving and stabilized outwardly.” But the data is not sufficient for the South Korean government to assess whether the pandemic has been winding down without understanding of the internal situation and standards for official statistics, according to the ministry.

The upward trend in pandemic-related cases is noteworthy particularly given South Korea’s local media reports that North Korea had partially lifted lockdown measures in Pyongyang at noon Sunday, citing multiple unnamed sources in China.

Residents in Pyongyang are allowed to leave home, South Korean broadcaster YTN reported on Sunday. Yonhap News Agency added that businesses and major facilities would restart their operations.

The move came less than three weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered the country to shift to a “maximum emergency epidemic prevention” system and impose nationwide lockdown measures at a politburo meeting on May 12.

But South Korea’s Unification Ministry on Monday declined to confirm the media reports.

“As North Korean media outlets have not yet reported on the lifting of lockdowns, we will need to further check to confirm whether the media report is true,” the ministry’s spokesperson Cho Joong-hoon told a regular press briefing.

North Korea’s state media did not report ease of movement restrictions as of Monday afternoon. Instead, the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, said that lockdown measures have been enforced “more strictly” in South Pyongan Province, which is to the north of Pyongyang.

Cho said Seoul will still keep an eye on a potential revision in North Korea’s anti-epidemic rules in light of the politburo’s decision on the issue.

North Korea’s politburo on Sunday alluded to the possibility of easing the draconian lockdown measures at a consultative meeting held under the guidance of the leader.

The Political Bureau of the Party Central Committee “deliberated on the issues of effectively and quickly adjusting and enforcing anti-epidemic regulations and guidelines in keeping with the stable trend in the spread of an epidemic disease,” the state media reported later in the day.

North Korea’s state media has touted the Kim Jong-un regime’s achievements in curbing and controlling the COVID-19 pandemic and underscored the legitimacy of the stringent antivirus measures.

The Rodong Sinmun on Monday said the “stable trend has been firmly maintained” across the country amid gradually containing the virus outbreak in a separate article.

“The fact that the country’s anti-epidemic situation has been managed stably is an entirely deserved result of the legitimacy, effectiveness, and scientific accuracy of the anti-epidemic measures of our party and country.”

But at the same time, the newspaper called for the party’s organizations and officials to stay vigilant against the pandemic situation despite the progress.

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