North Korea still claims not having Covid19 infections in the country
North Korea has told the World Health Organization that it has tested 25,986 people for the coronavirus through April but still has yet to find a single infection. The WHO said in a weekly monitoring report that North Korea’s testing figures include 751 people who were tested during April 23-29, of which 139 had influenza-like illnesses or severe respiratory infections.
Experts have expressed skepticism about North Korea’s claim of a perfect record in keeping out Covid-19, given its poor health infrastructure and a porous border it shares with China. North Korea has described its anti-virus efforts as a matter of national existence. It has barred tourists, flown out diplomats and severely restricted cross-border traffic and trade. The North has stopped providing the number of people it quarantines this year, but previously said it had quarantined tens of thousands who had exhibited symptoms.
North Korea is facing one of the worst economic crises in its 73-year history, amid shortages of food and medicines and warnings of rising unemployment and homelessness. The country’s economy has been battered by more than a year of border restrictions imposed after the coronavirus outbreak, flooding caused by natural disasters, and international sanctions imposed in response to the regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
Kim, who is facing the biggest domestic test of his nine years in power, said he had instructed party members at every level “to wage another, more difficult arduous march in order to relieve our people of the difficulty, even if just a little”. There has been much speculation about the continuing border lockdown. Human rights groups warn North Korea is facing dire food shortages, with observers predicting Pyongyang will soon have to ask China for aid, while media reports suggest normal trade between the two countries could soon resume.