North Korea in 'great turmoil' with 21 Covid-19 deaths, 174,000 cases of fever

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SEOUL - North Korea has reported 21 deaths and 174,400 new cases of fever, as leader Kim Jong Un warned that the country is facing "great turmoil" due to the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) released the figures Saturday (May 14), after the country's leader Kim Jong Un chaired a politburo meeting to review the regime's "maximum emergency" antivirus system and discuss how to swiftly distribute medical supplies.

"The spread of the malignant epidemic is a great turmoil to fall on our country since the founding," he was cited as saying.

Mr Kim has ordered a lockdown of major cities and told officials to learn from other countries' successful virus control measures, especially China's.

He also urged people to have faith that they can overcome the outbreak soon, as the transmissions are contained within certain communities that have already been isolated and not spreading across regions.

The situation is not uncontrollable, he added.

North Korea announced its first Covid-19 case on Thursday (May 12), at a time when the two-year-long pandemic is moving into the endemic phase in South Korea.

Seoul added 29,581 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total to 17,756,627.

In North Korea, a total of 524,440 people showed symptoms of fever between late April and May 13, the KCNA said.

It added that 280,810 people are undergoing treatment, while the rest have fully recovered. The death toll has climbed to 27.

Analysts say the actual infection figures may be even higher, as North Korea does not have enough diagnostics kits and is just reporting cases of fever, not other Covid-19-related symptoms.

A major outbreak is feared to have dire consequences, given the country's poor healthcare system and lack of medical supplies.

Its 25 million population is vulnerable to the coronavirus as North Korea rejected offers of vaccines several times last year, insisting that it was free of Covid-19 due to effective lockdown measures.

It is one of only two countries in the world that did not embark on mass vaccination, the other being Eritrea in Africa.

South Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol on Friday offered to send vaccines and other medical supplies to North Korea. A spokesman said the government will hold talks with North Korea regarding the details.

South Korea, which has a high vaccination rate of over 86...

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