Covid-19: North Korea claims to have recovered from outbreak

By George Wright
BBC News

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Image source, Reuters
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The government ordered a national lockdown in May

North Korea says everyone who fell sick since the country confirmed its first Covid-19 infections has recovered.

On Friday state media reported zero fever cases for a seventh straight day. North Korea refers to "fever" rather than "Covid" patients due to a lack of testing equipment.

The country announced its first Covid outbreak in May and has reported fever infections and deaths since.

But there is widespread doubt over the data, especially the number of deaths.

"No new fever cases were reported during the past week and all those receiving treatment have recovered across the country," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Friday.

North Korea has entered a phase of "stability", it added, but the country would "redouble efforts to maintain perfection in the execution of state anti-epidemic policies".

Pyongyang has not confirmed how many people tested positive for Covid.

But state media said around 4.77 million fever patients have fully recovered and 74 have died since late April, which is a fatality rate of 0.002% - the lowest in the world.

Many experts find these statistics hard to believe.

North Korea has one of the worst healthcare systems in the world, and has no Covid-19 treatment drugs or vaccines, experts say.

In contrast, South Korea - which has an advanced healthcare system and a highly vaccinated population - has a reported Covid fatality rate of 0.12%, according to official data.

Shin Young-Jeon, a professor at Hanyang University's medical school in Seoul, told Reuters that North Korea's stated fatalities were nearly impossible and that the death toll could be up to 50,000.

South Korea's Unification Minister Kwon Young-se, responsible for inter-Korean affairs, this week said there were "credibility issues" with the data, but Covid seemed "somewhat under control" in the North.