North Korea said it learned its first outbreak after health officials on Sunday tested people at an unidentified organization in Pyongyang, the capital, who showed symptoms such as fever. It was confirmed that they were infected with the BA.2 sub-variant of the virus, she said.
The country has declared a “maximum emergency” and ordered all cities and counties in the nation’s 25 million nation to shut down to combat the spread.
North Korea’s admission of an outbreak was a sharp change for the secret country, which had long insisted that there were no cases of the virus that first emerged in neighboring China more than two years ago. Outside experts had been skeptical, however, citing the lack of extensive Covid testing and the North’s worn public health system.
Mr. Kim said 350,000 people have been found with fever since the end of April, including 18,000 on Thursday. He added that 162,200 people have been successfully treated. Reports on the outbreak have so far been vague, without clarifying, for example, how many of the 350,000 people found with the fever tested positive for the virus.
“Like any other data from North Korea, the figures are in question and we cannot fully trust them,” said Ahn Kyung-su, who manages the Seoul office. DPRKHealth.org, a website and a network of public health experts studying North Korea. “But what is clear is that North Korea has the Covid phenomenon and, by publicizing these figures, North Korea seems to be sending signals that it is finally ready to accept Covid-related aid from the outside.”