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(2nd LD) N. Korea reports nearly 220,000 new suspected COVID-19 cases, one more death

North Korea 11:40 May 21, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with KCNA report in paras 4-8)

SEOUL, May 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Saturday it has confirmed around 220,000 new cases of fever and another death, nine days after publicly admitting a COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

More than 219,030 people showed symptoms of fever and one death were reported over a 24-hour period until 6 p.m. the previous day, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, citing data from the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters. It raised the death toll to 66, while 281,350 have recovered.

The total number of fever cases since late April in the nation, with a population of approximately 25 million, came to more than 2.46 million as of 6 p.m. Friday, of which more than 1.76 million have recovered and roughly 692,480 are being treated, it added.

Despite the rolling tally of suspected cases, the North struck a positive note on its fight against what it calls the "epidemic."

"The spread of the malignant epidemic is now stably curbed and controlled and the national epidemic prevention foundations consolidated in the DPRK, thanks to an orderly system," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported in an English-language article.

DPRK refers to the North's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

The positive assessment appears to stand in contrast with a U.S. view. Earlier in the day, Reuters reported that a U.S. official described the COVID-19 situation in the North as "quite serious."

The KCNA reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held consultations with officials at the ruling Workers' Party's Central Committee building Saturday to discuss issues related to "effectively adjusting and executing" antivirus measures -- an apparent hint that he could ease some of stringent nationwide virus curbs.

On May 12, the reclusive North announced its first confirmed case of the Omicron variant. Many North Korea observers have raised concerns about the impoverished country's heath care system, including its coronavirus testing ability. They also say Pyongyang might be underreporting the number of patients showing symptoms.

North Korean health care workers disinfect the Pyongyang zoo in this photo from the state-run Korean Central News Agency on May 20, 2022 amid an outbreak of COVID-19. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)


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