How does North Korea cope with the pandemic tsunami as the medical system is weak?

The photo shows a sanitation and epidemic prevention worker disinfecting the corridor of a building in Pyongyang, North Korea in February this year.Associated Press

North KoreaState media confirmed today that at least one person in the country has died of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), and that the fever is spreading “explosively” in the country, with thousands of people contracting the disease. have separated.

due to the severe backwardness of the North Korean medical service system, including the fact that the entire population does not have access tovaccineVaccinated, experts say, an incurable tsunami of outbreaks would overwhelm the country. The following is the current state of North Korea’s anti-epidemic situation, compiled by AFP.

How is North Korea’s medical system?

North Korea’s medical system is considered the tail end of a crane in the world. North Korea was ranked 193 out of 195 countries in a 2021 survey by Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

AlthoughphiongyangOfficials claim free health care for all, but human rights groups have revealed that North Koreans have long had to pay for basic medical services, often through taxes on cigarettes or alcohol.

“Refugees often mention that hospitals have long had low resources,” said Sokil Park, director of research for the defunct group Liberty in North Korea.

“Intensive care units and accurate diagnostic equipment are ‘extremely scarce’, and are the only ones near Pyongyang,” Choi Jung-hun, a North Korean defector who worked as a doctor, told AFP.

Most of North Korea’s 25 million people live in rural areas or small towns without hospitals with intensive care units.

How is the health of the North Korean people?

North Korea has long struggled to find ways to feed its people. State media last year said the country was facing a “food crisis” and UN experts also warned vulnerable North Koreans were at risk of starvation.

“Most North Koreans suffer from chronic malnutrition,” said Lina Yoon, senior research researcher in Asia at Human Rights Watch.

She also said that after North Korea closed its borders for two years to contain the pandemic, “the original medicines are almost exhausted.”

Little is known about the health of North Koreans, but the World Health Organization (WHO) said in 2018 that non-communicable diseases such as diabetes account for 84 percent of deaths in the country.

These chronic diseases are a major risk factor for patients with COVID-19.

Poor health, especially widespread malnutrition, makes North Korea particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, said Ahn Chan-il, a defector who is now a researcher.

Did North Korean officials prepare for the outbreak?

North Korea announced two years ago that it was closing its borders, suspending trade and banning the entry of flights, and that officials were reportedly trying to illegally enter North Korea from China. Issued “shoot-to-kill” orders to the people.

Pyongyang has previously claimed that its strict lockdown policy has kept the virus out, but North Korea has not vaccinated its people during the lockdown.

North Korea refused to accept 3 million doses of the vaccine offered by China last year, saying it should be sent to “countries that need it more.”

A South Korean think tank said that North Korea had categorically rejected the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine provided by the WHO through the Global Access to Vaccines (COVAX) mechanism for fear of side effects.

The WHO said North Korea and Eritrea in Africa are the only countries in the world that have not launched a COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

How will North Korea fight this pandemic?

State media claimed this week that North Korea uses rigorous genetic analysis to diagnose COVID-19 patients, but experts believe the country’s testing capacity is extremely limited.

The researchers noted that North Korea lacks quarantine facilities equipped with negative pressure systems as well as the cold chain systems needed to distribute mRNA vaccines.

Experts agree that the North Korean medical system may have difficulty assisting anyone with side effects from a vaccine, which is why they refuse to accept donated vaccines.

It is believed that malnutrition affects a person’s immune response to vaccination. This means that in addition to medicine, North Korea may need a lot of food aid to successfully launch vaccinations.

Can other countries help North Korea?

China, South Korea and the WHO can all help immediately, and the new government in Seoul is ready to provide North Korea with vaccines.

However, just hours after the Kim Jong-un regime announced confirmed cases in the country, it tested three ballistic missiles in violation of international sanctions, a sign that Pyongyang did not want international aid.

But experts believe North Korea will soon have no choice. North Korea’s Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that unexplained fevers had “exploded” in the country since late April, with about 350,000 people showing symptoms and an increase of 18,000 on 12, a massive But there was a sign of the outbreak.

Professor Yang Moo-jin from the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul told AFP that North Korea was actually “communicating needs” through messages in English-language media, and that the country was sending “indirect messages” that Pyongyang The next step may be to request vaccine assistance from the United States or international organizations.

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