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North Korea Reports 21 New Deaths Amid Efforts To Mitigate COVID-19

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North Korea on Saturday reported 21 new deaths and 174,440 more people with fever symptoms as the country scrambles to slow the spread of COVID-19 across its unvaccinated population.

The new deaths and cases, which were from Friday, increased total numbers to 27 deaths and 524,440 illnesses amid a rapid spread of fever since late April. North Korea said 243,630 people had recovered and 280,810 remained in quarantine. State media didn’t specify how many of the fever cases and deaths were confirmed as COVID-19 infections.

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A North Korea flag flutters next to concertina wire at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia March 9, 2017.

A North Korea flag flutters next to concertina wire at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia March 9, 2017.
(REUTERS/Edgar Su)

The country imposed nationwide lockdowns on Thursday after confirming its first COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. It had previously held for more than two years to a widely doubted claim of a perfect record keeping out the virus that has spread to nearly every place in the world.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a meeting on anti-virus strategies on Saturday described the outbreak as a historically “huge disruption” and called for unity between the government and people to stabilize the outbreak as quickly as possible.

Kim expressed optimism that the country could bring the outbreak under control, saying most transmissions are occurring within communities that are isolated from one another and not spreading from region to region. The country since Thursday has imposed stronger preventive measures aimed at restricting the movement of people and supplies between cities and counties, but state media’s descriptions of the steps indicate people aren’t being confined to their homes.

Experts say a failure to control the spread of COVID-19 could have devastating consequences in North Korea, considering the country’s poor health care system and that its 26 million people are largely unvaccinated.

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FILE - In this Nov. 15, 2020, file photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party Politburo in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim ordered at least two people executed, banned fishing at sea and locked down capital Pyongyang as part of frantic efforts to guard against the coronavirus and its economic damage, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

FILE – In this Nov. 15, 2020, file photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party Politburo in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim ordered at least two people executed, banned fishing at sea and locked down capital Pyongyang as part of frantic efforts to guard against the coronavirus and its economic damage, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)
(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

Tests of virus samples collected Sunday from an unspecified number of people with fevers in the country’s capital, Pyongyang, confirmed they were infected with the omicron variant, state media said. The country has so far officially confirmed one death as linked to an omicron infection.

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