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(LEAD) N. Korea reports 186,000 new suspected COVID-19 cases, one more death

All News 10:52 May 22, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with KCNA report, U.S. official's view, Biden's remarks from 5th para)

SEOUL, May 22 (Yonhap) -- North Korea said Sunday around 186,000 new cases of fever and another death have been reported, as it announced a COVID-19 outbreak on its soil earlier this month.

More than 186,090 people showed symptoms of fever, with one additional death 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 67, with the fatality rate standing at 0.003 percent, the KCNA added.

The fever caseload reported since late April in the nation, with a population of 24 million, had come to more than 2.64 million as of 6 p.m. Saturday, of which more than 2.06 million have recovered and at least 579,390 are being treated, according to the KCNA.

The North has continued to claim accomplishments in its ongoing antivirus fight amid a widespread view in the outside world that it might be underreporting the number of patients showing symptoms and related deaths. Many North Korea observers have raised concerns about the impoverished country's heath care system, including its coronavirus testing capabilities, and a question mark over the credibility of its coronavirus statistics.

"The current situation of the epidemic spread in the DPRK shows a positive trend away from a rapid growth in the beginning to a decline after being stably controlled and managed," the KCNA reported in an English-language article. DPRK stands for the North's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

It highlighted the "patriotic devotion" of military personnel dispatched to pharmacies in Pyongyang to steer the "epidemic" prevention campaign.

The all-out nationwide initiative also involves professional workers, teachers and medical students that have been involved in medical checkups, treatment and hygienic information service, according to the KCNA.

"From May 17 to 19 alone, large amounts of over 70 types of medicine were supplied to more than 4,900 medicine management offices, curative and preventive organs, and at least 4,300 pharmacies and medicine stands nationwide," it said.

Meanwhile, a senior U.S. official reportedly said COVID-19 restrictions may be a factor affecting the North's lack of response to Washington's stated overtures for dialogue.

Reuters cited the unnamed official as making the remark Sunday, the last day of President Joe Biden's three-day schedule here, which included summit talks with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol the previous day.

During a post-summit joint press conference, Biden said, "We've offered vaccines, not only to North Korea but to China as well, and we're prepared to do that immediately."

The Biden administration has stated its willingness to talk with Pyongyang "anywhere, anytime without preconditions," stressing it has no hostile intent toward the regime.

On May 12, the reclusive North made public its first confirmed case of the omicron variant.




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