On Monday, when the North’s fever cases had already surpassed 1.2 million, Ryu Yong Chol, an official at Pyongyang’s anti-virus headquarters, said on state TV that the government had detected 168 COVID-19 cases as of last Saturday. There have been no updates on the North’s virus cases since then.
Ahn Kyung-su, head of DPRKHEALTH.ORG, a website focusing on health issues in North Korea, said Pyongyang had likely determined its omicron outbreak won’t cause catastrophic fatalities but disclosed it to prevent potential public unrest. He said North Korea’s increased anti-virus measures are partly meant to solidify its control of a public tired of previous restrictions and other difficulties.
“North Korea’s pandemic response isn’t completely staged as people are dying. But it’s obvious that its leadership’s political intentions have been added there,” Ahn said. “One day, they’ll proclaim their victory over COVID-19 in a colorful manner.”
North Korea’s public medical system remains in shambles, and experts say the country could suffer mass pandemic fatalities if it doesn’t receive outside aid shipments. They say the country’s elevated restrictions on movement and quarantine rules may also worsen its food insecurity.