Kim Jong Un blasts North Korea's poor response to COVID crisis amid explosive outbreak and rising 'fever' cases

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People sit near a screen showing a news broadcast at a train station in Seoul on May 12, 2022, of North Koreas leader Kim Jong Un.
People sit near a screen showing a news broadcast at a train station in Seoul on May 12, 2022, of North Koreas leader Kim Jong Un.Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images
  • During a meeting on Tuesday, Kim Jong Un criticized the way his country has handled the pandemic.

  • Since first acknowledging a COVID outbreak last week, North Korea has recorded 1.72 million cases of fever.

  • North Korea has not begun carrying out mass vaccinations, and its testing capabilities are limited.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un criticized his country's response to what appears to be a worsening COVID outbreak this week, chastising government leaders for reacting inadequately to the growing health crisis, according to a Wednesday state media report.

During a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party on Tuesday, Kim said the "non-positive attitude, slackness and non-activity of state leading officials" increased the "complexity and hardships" that the country faced during its pandemic response, North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

The meeting also touched on how the country could stand a "good chance in the overall epidemic prevention front" and see a "favorable turn," despite rising case numbers and death counts, by adjusting course.

Since last week, when North Korea acknowledged its first COVID case two years in the pandemic, the country has recorded 1.72 million people with fever symptoms, Reuters reported, and there have so far been at least 62 deaths as of Tuesday evening. Observers suspect North Korea has long been grappling with the virus but is facing a new and more serious outbreak.

North Korea has declined to say how many people have actually been diagnosed with the COVID virus, instead pointing to numbers of fever cases. On Wednesday, the country's state media reported that the number of people with fever symptoms had risen by 232,880, per Reuters.

One day after announcing its first COVID case, North Korean state media reported on a fever that had "explosively spread," infecting  more than 350,000 people and killing six since late April. Of the six who died, one tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID, according to state media. The numbers have since worsened.

Following North Korea's acknowledgement of a public health situation, North Korea ordered nationwide lockdowns and has since mobilized the military, including 3,000 military medical personnel, to help respond. North Korea has also released a guide for COVID treatment.

Kim Jong UN in mask
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seen wearing a mask in images broadcast by state-run media on May 12, 2022.KCTV

Images broadcast on state media last week showed Kim wearing a mask for the first time, and state media reported Kim as saying the outbreak showed a "grave sign of lapses in our anti-epidemic system."

The country has not begun mass vaccinations, and its testing capabilities are limited. Experts have expressed concerns about the ability to detect and combat COVID's spread.

According to Reuters, a lack of adequate storage, chronic power shortages, and inadequately trained medical staff are contributing to North Korea's difficulties vaccinating its 25 million citizens, even with help from other countries. South Korean officials reported North Korea prefers US-made Moderna and Pfizer vaccines over China's Sinovac or British-Swedish AstraZeneca vaccines.

"Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require a low-temperature storage system, which North Korea does not have,"  Moon Jin-soo, director of the Institute for Health and Unification Studies at Seoul National University told Reuters. "It would require a ton of additional materials to use them for inoculation."

Read the original article on Business Insider