SEOUL: North Korea reported zero fever cases on Saturday for the first time in more than two months since it confirmed its first Covid-19 infections in May.

“There were no new fever patients reported” over a 24-hour period from Thursday evening, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said, marking the first time the isolated country had reported no new cases since it began tallying numbers in May.

While it has maintained a rigid coronavirus blockade since the start of the pandemic, experts have said that massive Omicron outbreaks in neighbouring countries meant it was only a matter of time before Covid snuck in.

North Korea has recorded nearly 4.8 million infections since late April, KCNA said, adding “99.994 percent” of them had fully recovered with just 204 patients under treatment.

Apparently due to a lack of testing capacity, North Korea refers to “fever patients” rather than “Covid patients” in case reports.

The country has one of the world’s worst healthcare systems, with poorly-equipped hospitals, few intensive care units, and no Covid-19 treatment drugs or mass testing ability, experts say.

Pyongyang announced its first coronavirus cases on May 12 and activated a “maximum emergency epidemic prevention system”, with leader Kim Jong Un putting himself front and centre of the government’s response.

North Korea has not vaccinated any of its roughly 25 million people, having rejected jabs offered by the World Health Organization.

The North said in late May it started seeing “progress” in controlling the outbreak but experts have cast doubts on the claim, citing the country’s crumbling health infrastructure and unvaccinated population.

WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said last month he assumed the situation in North Korea was “getting worse not better”, though he acknowledged Pyongyang had provided very limited information.

South Korea previously offered to send vaccines and other medical aid to the North to help it deal with its coronavirus outbreak.

Pyongyang has not officially responded.


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