Coronavirus pandemic causes havoc in North Korea with over 1 million cases of 'fever'

Kim Jong Un ordered the military to help distribute medicine in North Korea's response to the coronavirus pandemic, state media said on Monday. The country said 50 people have died since the Covid-19 outbreak was first reported.

Coronavirus pandemic causes havoc in North Korea with over 1 million cases of fever
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Seoul: Kim Jong Un ordered the military to help distribute medicine in North Korea's response to the coronavirus pandemic, state media said on Monday. The country said 50 people have died since the Covid-19 outbreak was first reported.


State media said more than a million people were affected by what North Korea is referring to as a "fever" despite leader Kim ordering a nationwide Covid-19 lockdown to slow the spread of the disease through unvaccinated populations.


In a sign of how dire the situation could be, Kim "strongly criticized" health officials for what he called a failed response to the containment of the pandemic. He ordered the military to work on "immediately stabilizing the supply of drugs" to Pyongyang, the capital, where Omicron was detected last week in North Korea's first reported cases of COVID-19.


KCNA said Kim strongly criticized the cabinet and the public health sector for their irresponsible attitude. He also criticized the lapse in official legal oversight, which "marked several negative developments in the operation and sale of drugs across the country."


Experts say North Korea has the world's worst health system, with poorly equipped hospitals, few intensive care units and no COVID-19 drugs or mass testing capacity.


"While visiting a pharmacy, Kim Jong Un saw with his own eyes a shortage of drugs in North Korea," Sejong Institute researcher Cheong Seong-jang told AFP. 


"They may have guessed, but the situation may be more dire than they expected," he added.


KCNA said that as of May 15, a total of 50 people had died, with 1,213,550 cases of "fever" and more than half a million people currently receiving medical treatment.


Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul said the public criticism of Kim was a sign that the situation on the ground was dire. "He is pointing to the overall inadequacy of the quarantine system," he said.


According to KCNA, Kim had previously said that the country would "actively learn" from China's epidemic management strategy.


China (the world's only major economy still maintaining a zero-Covid policy) is battling multiple Omicron outbreaks, with lockdowns in some major cities including financial hub Shanghai, fueling public dismay.

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