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As alleged COVID spread continues in North Korea, WHO worries about missing data


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North Korea reported hundreds of thousands of new infections on Wednesday, but said a million people had already recovered from suspected COVID-19.

The country announced 232,880 new fever cases and six additional deaths, with at least 691,170 remaining in quarantine.

While outside experts believe most fevers – 232,880 fever cases were announced on Wednesday – stem from the coronavirus, North Korea lacks the testing capacity to confirm them all.

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The outbreak is also almost certainly larger than counted, as some people may be asymptomatic.

While it remains unclear how many cases have been confirmed as linked to COVID-19, it is also unclear how more than one million people recovered so quickly.

The announcement comes just a week after acknowledging an outbreak and imposing nationwide lockdowns.

North Korea’s population of 26 million is thought to be unvaccinated against the coronavirus, although South Korean officials said last week they would offer to send vaccines and other medical supplies urgently to their northern neighbour. China has also offered to provide assistance.

North Korea has made no indication that it intends to accept the offer and has previously refused millions of doses of vaccines offered by the United Nations-backed COVAX distribution program.

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South Korea’s government said it could not confirm media reports that North Korea flew planes to bring back medical equipment from China on Tuesday.

Earlier this week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un criticized officials for their response to the health crisis.

He said there was no timely delivery of drugs to pharmacies due to their “irresponsible” work attitude and lackluster organization, according to North Korea’s official KCNA news agency.

The ruling Politburo had sent an emergency order to distribute state drugs immediately and for pharmacies to remain open 24 hours a day.

Kim, however, said those measures were not being properly implemented and KCNA said he had ordered his army’s medical units to start stabilizing drug supplies in Pyongyang.

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that the country had not responded to his request for further information on the coronavirus.

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“WHO is deeply concerned about the risk of spread in (North Korea),” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Landon Mion of Fox News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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