Still Covid-Free, North Korea Insists

A health official sprays disinfectant as part of preventative measures against Covid-19 in a Pyongyang, North Korea department store, September 27, 2021. Image: Kim Won Jin/AFP via Getty Images)
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A health official sprays disinfectant as part of preventative measures against Covid-19 in a Pyongyang, North Korea department store, September 27, 2021. Image: Kim Won Jin/AFP via Getty Images)

In a North Korean hospital, 10 patients with COVID-19 symptoms were sent to an unheated ward typically used to treat tuberculosis, Radio Free Asia reports; they later died amid freezing temperatures.
 
The hospital, in Chongjin, then falsified the cause of their deaths—blaming malnutrition—despite the fact they’d complained of fevers and been diagnosed with pneumonia.
 
“No one has died from the coronavirus in North Korea because the public will never know about it. Hospitals announce those deaths are due to tuberculosis [TB] or flu,” said a source who requested anonymity for safety reasons.
 
You’ll find no evidence of domestic cases in the North Korean news, and the authorities continue to insist it has found no cases—informing the WHO that no cases turned up after testing 669 people with flu-like symptoms or severe respiratory infections in late October, NK News reports.
 
The country continues to emphasize extreme border controls and other pandemic restrictions to keep the virus out, while sharing mixed messages on vaccines.

  • The country, yet to vaccinate its population, turned down an offer of Sinovac vaccines in September.
  • Korea Central Television reported Sunday that “vaccines alone cannot change pandemic situations and that preventive measures should not be eased until this malignant virus becomes extinct.”


Pyongyang's severe border restrictions, however, have fueled severe shortages of food and supplies, pushing the country to the brink of famine as winter approaches, Deutsche Welle reports.

  • Last month, North Korean leader Kim Kim Jong Un “ordered people to salvage every grain of rice,” according to VOA.
  • The looming crisis is spurring calls for the UN Security Council and the US to consider easing sanctions on North Korea.
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