North Korea's reporting of Covid-19 situation 'doesn't make sense', this is why

The Covid-19 situation in North Korea is likely getting worse, according to the WHO. This is despite the country’s claims of progress.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that it believes North Korea's Covid-19 situation is getting worse, despite claims of progress by the country.

'The situation is getting worse, not better'

North Korean state media has claimed that the worst is over, after daily numbers of people with fever reached 390,000 around two weeks ago, according to The Guardian. Conversely, the WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan said during a video briefing on Wednesday:

We assume the situation is getting worse, not better.

However:

We have real issues in getting access to the raw data and to the actual situation on the ground.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported early on Thursday 96,600 ‘fevered cases’ in 24 hours, making a total of 3.8 million casessince the end of April, as per The Guardian. It's thethird day in a row under 100,000, down from a high of 390,000 daily cases in mid-May, as reported by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

KCNA also reported that over 95% of cases had recovered, even though the country has one of the worst health systems in the world.

'These numbers don't make sense'

As reported by the BBC, until now, only 70 deaths have been officially reported. This means that North Korea's Covid fatality rate is just 0.002% - the lowest in the world. Martyn Williams, who has been tracking the data for the analysis platform 38 North, said:

For a country with a poor healthcare system, where no-one is vaccinated, these numbers don't make sense.

Williams also highlights that deaths peaked while cases were still rising:

We know with Covid-19 that deaths tend to follow infections by two to three weeks. So, we know these figures are incorrect, but we don't know why.

One potential explanation is that in addition to misreporting at a national level, local health officials may not want to disclose how many people have died for fear of being punished.

North Korea has rejected offers of help from the international community. Ryan said:

We have offered assistance on multiple occasions. We have offered vaccines on three separate occasions. We continue to offer.
We do not wish to see intense transmission of this disease in a mainly susceptible population, in a health system that has already weakened. This is not this is not good for the people of [North Korea]. This is not good for the region. This is not good for the world.

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