North Korea’s COVID tally nears 2 million

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North Korea's COVID tally nears 2 million

North Korea’s COVID-19 outbreak soared to nearly 2 million by Thursday, exactly a week after the Hermit Kingdom admitted its very first case.

The secretive nation — which until last week dubiously claimed to have completely escaped COVID for two and a half years — confirmed 262,270 more cases on Thursday. 

That took the tally to more than 1.98 million sickened with a fever, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

However, experts believe the tally is likely far higher given the isolated nation’s lack of testing abilities — with the death toll also likely to rocket due to the lack of key medical supplies and intensive care units.

The outbreak started in late April and spread after despot Kim Jong Un oversaw a huge parade marking the 110th birth anniversary of his state-founding grandfather, South Korea’s Newsis agency said, citing lawmakers briefed by Seoul’s spy agency.

A doctor checks a resident's temperature.
North Korea admitted the country’s first case of COVID-19 last week.
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP
Members of the North Korean army supply medicines to residents.
More than 1.98 million North Koreans are reportedly sickened with a fever.
Kyodo via REUTERS
A worker in protective gear stands on an empty sidewalk.
At least 740,160 people are in quarantine.
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

At least 740,160 people are also in quarantine, the agency said — with images showing health workers in hazmat suits guarding Pyongyang’s closed-off streets, disinfecting buildings and streets and delivering food and other supplies to apartment blocks.

Despite the surge in cases, the kingdom’s anti-virus headquarters reported only one extra death, raising its toll to just 63, an abnormally small number compared to the suspected infections, experts have noted.

Kee Park, a global health specialist at Harvard Medical School who has worked on health care projects in North Korea, has predicted that tens of thousands could eventually die.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, visits a pharmacy in Pyongyang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a pharmacy in Pyongyang.
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP
A doctor visits a family during an activity to raise public awareness of the COVID-19 prevention measures.
North Korea’s anti-virus headquarters reported a death toll of just 63.
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

Authoritarian leader Kim has called the outbreak a “great upheaval,” berating officials for letting the virus spread and restricting the movement of people and supplies between cities and regions.

Experts say the country cannot afford a lockdown because the economy is already broken by mismanagement, crippling US-led sanctions over Kim’s nuclear weapons ambitions and pandemic border closures.

The country has shunned millions of vaccines offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program, likely because of international monitoring requirements that are required to receive the shots.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, delivers a speech.
Kim Jong Un berated North Korea officials for letting the virus spread.
Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP
Staff disinfecting the premises.
North Korea has shunned millions of vaccines offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program.
KCNA/EPA
Military personnel from the Korean People's Army medical corps attend the launch of a campaign to improve the supply of medicines.
Military personnel from the Korean People’s Army medical corps attend the launch of a campaign to improve the supply of medicines.
EyePress News/Shutterstock

It has also ignored offers of help from South Korea and the US to contain the outbreak, according to Kim Tae-hyo, deputy national security adviser for South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.

Experts have said North Korea may be more willing to accept help from China, its main ally.

With Post wires

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