North Korea Denies Having Any COVID-19 Cases — But Privately Requests Medical Aid, New Report Says
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North Korea is reportedly requesting medical aid from other countries, though it has thus far denied having any COVID-19 cases.
According to The Hill, which cited a Thursday Financial Times report, North Korean officials are privately requesting “unspecified aid” because they fear there won’t be enough testing kits for the country.
The outlet reported that the official number of reported cases in North Korea are zero at the time of this writing.
A source said, “The government has testing kits for COVID-19 and they know how to use them, but [the number of kits are] not sufficient, hence, [officials are] requesting all organizations … to support them in this regard.”
The Financial Times also reported that the country has tested at least 590 citizens, but none of them reportedly tested positive for coronavirus.
Last week, a Reuters report noted that officials requested aid from agencies including masks and testing kits.
One source told Reuters, “North Koreans need assistance and have asked for it, but things are now on hold.”
Nagi Shafik, a former World Health Organization project chief and UNICEF official in Pyongyang, told Business Insider that there’s a real concern over a widespread COVID-19 outbreak in North Korea.
“There’s not enough medicine for the country,” Shafik said. “I’m really concerned about them facing an outbreak.”
North Korea closed its border with China in January.
Reuters reported that the country is “especially vulnerable to a coronavirus outbreak as its health system lacks resources … because of international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.”
The Reuters report added, “Aid groups have made urgent pleas for the United Nations to grant sanctions exemptions and it has approved six-month waivers for the World Health Organization, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and Doctors without Borders to send thermometers, portable ventilators, resuscitators, gloves, face shields, surgical masks, gowns and goggles.”