After two years of claiming no confirmed COVID-19 case, North Korea revealed a nationwide outbreak on 13 May and launched emergency measures to prevent epidemics. The epidemic began in late April and is spreading “explosively,” according to state media.
Officially, there have been only a handful of confirmed COVID-19 cases so far, although this low number is likely due to inadequate testing opportunities. Instead, most cases are attributed to an unidentified “fever” and are thought to be related to COVID-19. North Korean state media have published daily data on the outbreak, which is discussed below. 38 North will update these figures daily as new information becomes available.
It reported North Korean state media 269,510 new cases of fever diagnosed within 24 hours to 18.00 KST on 16 May to 18.00 KST on 16 May. A further 8 deaths were reported, making it nationwide to 50 since the outbreak began. The country currently has 663,910 active cases and 819,090 people have recovered. Taken together, this means that 1.5 million people, or 5.7 percent of the population, have experienced symptoms.
Provincial data reported on Korean central television indicate that the outbreak of fever is hitting North Korea’s main cities hardest. In Pyongyang, there were 240,459 people treated on May 15, equivalent to about 7 percent of the city’s population. Cases in Nampho were just as high at 7 percent, and in Rason and Kaesong, active cases accounted for about 4.5 percent of the population.
Deaths by age group
Of the 50 deaths reported to date, about a third have been among North Koreans aged 61 or older. By age group, infants and children up to the age of 10 have been hit second hardest with 8 deaths, according to state data.