SEOUL: North Korea on Thursday (Aug 25) said it found four new fever cases in its border region with China that may have been caused by coronavirus infections, two weeks after leader Kim Jong Un declared a widely disputed victory over COVID-19.
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said health workers were conducting genetic tests on the samples taken from four people in the Ryanggang Province who exhibited fevers to confirm whether the symptoms were caused by the “malignant epidemic”.
The North often uses that term, along with “malignant virus,” to describe COVID-19 and the coronavirus.
Authorities immediately locked down the areas where the fever cases emerged and will maintain tight restrictions until health workers determine the cause of the illness, KCNA said.
North Korea said there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases in any part of the country since Aug 10 when Kim declared victory over the virus and ordered preventive measures eased, just three months after the country acknowledged an outbreak.
While Kim claimed that the country’s success against the virus would be recognised as a global health miracle, experts believe the North has manipulated disclosures on its outbreak to help him maintain absolute control. The victory statement signals Kim’s aim to move to other priorities, including a possible nuclear test, experts say.
After admitting to an omicron outbreak of the virus in May, North Korea reported about 4.8 million “fever cases” across its mostly unvaccinated population of 26 million but only identified a fraction of them as COVID-19.
It claimed just 74 people have died, which experts see as an abnormally small number considering the country’s lack of public health tools.