North Korea Claims No Coronavirus Cases. Can It Be Trusted? – The New York Times

SEOUL, South Korea — Shin Dong-yun, ​a scientist from the North Korean Institute of Virology, ​rushed to the northwestern border with China in early February. There, he performed 300 assessments, skipping meals to evaluate ​a stream of individuals ​in order that “the country is protected from the invasion of the novel coronavirus.”

Tales like this, carried within the state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun, focus consideration on one of many stranger oddities surrounding the Covid-19​ pandemic​: How may North Korea declare to not have a single coronavirus case whereas nations ​all over the world stagger below the exploding epidemic?

However a long time of isolation and international sanctions have ravaged​ North Korea’s public well being system, elevating fears that ​it lacks the medical provides to struggle an outbreak, which many concern has already occurred.

Final month, Day by day NK, a Seoul-based mostly web site ​that ​hires nameless informants inside ​the ​​North, reported the deaths of 200 troopers, in addition to 23 others, who have been suspected of contracting the coronavirus. B​ut ​Kang Mi-jin, a North Korean defector-turned journalist in Seoul, stated that irrespective of how onerous they searched, her contacts in ​the ​North couldn’t discover a demise formally ascribed to the coronavirus.

Up to now, the nation has hushed or performed down epidemics, army rebellions, man-made disasters or anything that would ​undermine the folks’s religion within the authorities.

​However this time, the North’s unusually aggressive strikes​, in addition to its distinctive capacity to detain folks, might have prevented a devastating outbreak​, stated Jung Gwang-il, a North Korean defector who leads No Chain, a North Korean human rights activist group in Seoul​. As quickly as an outbreak was ​reported in China, North Korea rounded up ​all ​Chinese language guests in its northeastern city of Rason ​and quarantine​d​ them ​on an island for a month, Mr. Jung stated.

“It’s safe to say that there are cases in North Korea but I don’t think the outbreak there is as large as the ones we have seen in South Korea, Italy and the U.S.,” stated Ahn Kyung-su, the top of the Seoul-based mostly Analysis Heart of DPRK Well being and Welfare, which displays the North’s well being system. “North Koreans are trained to obey government orders in a shipshape way during crises. But there is the risk of the virus running out of control if it starts spreading among its malnourished people.”