Without vaccines, North Korea faces covid with tea and TV advertising

Without vaccines, North Korea faces covid with tea and TV advertising

Experts fear the outbreak could get worse as the country has an impoverished, unvaccinated population that is without hospital care.

On a recent overnight visit to a pharmacy, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, wearing two masks, regretted the delay in the delivery of medicines. In parallel, North Korean lieutenants quarantined hundreds of thousands of people suspected of having Covid-19 and recommended that those with mild symptoms drink tea made from willow leaves or honeysuckle.

Despite the propaganda describing the actions as a total effort, fear is palpable among citizens, report defectors who are in the South Korea and have contacts with North Korea. Experts fear the outbreak could get worse, as the country has an impoverished, unvaccinated population that is without hospital care and struggling to pay for even simple medicine.

“North Koreans know that many people in the world have died from Covid, so they fear that some of them may also die,” said Kang Mi-jin, a defector who spoke by phone with residents of Hyesan.

Since admitting the first outbreak of Covid-19 a week ago, North Korea has struggled to deal with a growing health crisis that has heightened fears of a virus the government previously claimed it had kept under control.

PRECARIOUSNESS. The response to the pandemic in the country seems focused on isolating suspected patients. This may be all the government can really do, as there are no vaccines, antivirals, ICUs and other medical resources.

North Korean officials said yesterday that “a rapidly spreading fever” has killed 63 people and made 2 million sick since late April. About 740,000 people remain in quarantine. The total number of confirmed cases was 168 at the start of the week, despite an increase in cases reported as fever. Experts believe the scale of the outbreak is underreported to avoid demonstrations that would undermine Kim’s leadership.

Meanwhile, state TV broadcasts advertisements advising citizens to seek medical advice if they have symptoms. They also tell you which medications to take, including home remedies like honey tea. Since the 12th, travel between regions in North Korea is prohibited.

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