No Covid cases in North Korea for a week, authorities say

North Korea did not report anyone on Friday "suffering from fever"for the seventh day in a row, and affirmed that all those who have suffered from covid in the country are now cured. “No new cases of fever were reported in the past week and all those who received treatment recovered”the official KCNA news agency reported on Friday.

The term of "feverish patient" is used by the North Korean authorities to designate people infected with the coronavirus because, according to some, of a lack of screening tests.

An official fatality rate of 0.002%

North Korea, one of the first countries in the world to close its borders in January 2020 after the virus emerged in neighboring China, has long boasted of its ability to guard against the virus. Pyongyang announced its first coronavirus case on May 12, and leader Kim Jong Un has taken the fight against the outbreak personally in hand.

According to KCNA, the epidemic situation is now "entry into a phase of stability".

North Korea has recorded nearly 4.8 million infections since the end of April, with just 74 deaths, an official case fatality rate of 0.002%, according to the news agency.

The country's hospitals are notoriously under-equipped, with few intensive care units and no coronavirus treatment or vaccine available, experts say.

Persistent doubts

Neighboring South Korea, which has an efficient health system and a high vaccination rate among its population, has a mortality rate of 0.12% by comparison, according to official figures.

“It is hard to believe a country if it claims that the number of confirmed patients has suddenly dropped to zero”told theAFP Ahn Chan-il, specialist in North Korean studies. "Like his military weapons and nuclear programs, it seems fair to say that Covid is also being used to highlight Kim Jong Un's leadership and reinforce (feeling) of loyalty to him, regardless of the truth".

At the end of May, Pyongyang said it was starting to see " progress in epidemic control, but experts, including the WHO, have repeatedly questioned that claim.

For Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, Pyongyang's assertion that the epidemic is under control seems "fairly reliable".

The situation seems to be back to normal because “there are no signs of tightening border controls, no official requests for aid or medical equipment have been made to Beijing and diplomats based in Pyongyang remain in place”he added.

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