N.Korea reports eight more dead, medicine supply issues amid Covid outbreak

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People wearing protective face masks walk in front of Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea April 27, 2020, in this photo released by Kyodo. ― Kyodo via Reuters
Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - People wearing protective face masks walk in front of Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea April 27, 2020, in this photo released by Kyodo. ― Kyodo via Reuters

SEOUL, May 16 — North Korea on Monday reported eight more deaths from “fever” after recently announcing its first Covid cases, with the military deployed to resolve “supply of medicines” issues.

Leader Kim Jong-un ordered the military commission to act “on immediately stabilising the supply of medicines in Pyongyang City by involving the powerful forces of the military medical field of the People’s Army,” state media KCNA reported.

The outbreak, which Kim has previously said is causing “great upheaval”, has hit a country with one of the world’s worst healthcare systems.

North Korea has no Covid vaccines, antiviral treatment drugs or mass-testing capacity. 

According to KCNA, Kim reported that “orders have not yet been carried out properly and medicines have not been properly supplied to pharmacies,” during an emergency meeting of the country’s politburo convened Sunday.

The shortages were occurring after pharmacies had failed to heed orders for 24-hour operation, he said.

“Officials of the Cabinet and public health sector in charge of the supply have not rolled up their sleeves, not properly recognising the present crisis but only talking about the spirit of devotedly serving the people,” KCNA said Kim had told officials.

State media said a total of 50 people had died, with 1,213,550 cases of fever and at least 564,860 under medical treatment.

While North Korea has maintained a rigid coronavirus blockade since the pandemic’s start, experts have said that Omicron outbreaks in the region meant it was only a matter of time before Covid spread to the country. — AFP

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