News Coronavirus COVID in North Korea likely getting worse: WHO
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COVID in North Korea likely getting worse: WHO

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Experts suspect North Korean state media is under-reporting the country's COVID-19 figures. Photo: Getty
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The World Health Organisation has cast doubts on North Korea’s claims of progress in the fight against a COVID-19 outbreak, saying it believes the situation is getting worse, not better, amid an absence of independent data.

North Korean state media has said the COVID wave has abated after daily numbers of people with fever topped 390,000 about two weeks ago.

Pyongyang has never directly confirmed how many people have tested positive for the virus but experts suspect under-reporting in the figures released through government-controlled media, making it difficult to assess the scale of the situation.

“We assume the situation is getting worse, not better,” WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan said during a video briefing on Wednesday.

He said the WHO did not have access to any privileged information beyond the numbers reported by state media, and was working with neighbours such as South Korea and China to try to get a better picture.

The WHO had offered assistance on multiple occasions, including vaccines and supplies, he said.

North Korea reported 96,610 more people showing fever amid its nationwide lockdown aimed at containing the impoverished country’s first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak, state news agency KCNA said on Thursday.

The media, however, did not mention whether there were any new deaths.

KCNA said provinces were “intensifying” their anti-epidemic campaigns, including enforcing some lockdowns and coastal blockades, increasing production of drugs and medical supplies, and carrying out disinfection work.

Key work such as farming continued, however.

North Korean Premier Kim Tok-hun inspected two pharmaceutical factories amid a push to put the country’s drug industry on a “on a new higher level”, KCNA reported.