North Korea mobilises military to fight virus wave

North Korea mobilises military to fight virus wave

North Korea mobilised its military to distribute COVID medications and deploy more than 10,000 health workers to help trace potential patients as it fights a sweeping coronaviruses wave, state media KCNA said on Tuesday.

The isolated country is grappling with its first acknowledged COVID 19 outbreak, which it confirmed last week, leading to concerns over a major crisis due to lack of vaccine and adequate medical infrastructure.

The death toll grew to 56 as of Monday evening as the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters reported 269,510 more people with fever symptoms, bringing the total to 1,483, 060. It did not say how many people had tested positive for COVID - 19.

A powerful force of the army's medical corps was deployed immediately to improve the supply of medicines in the capital Pyongyang, the centre of the epidemic, after an order by leader Kim Jong Un, according to KCNA.

The team's mission was to try and solve the public health crisis in Pyongyang.

Some senior members of the ruling Workers' Party visited pharmacies and medicine management offices to check supply and demand, a KCNA said in another dispatch, after Kim criticised ineffective distribution of drugs.

They called for more strict order in keeping and handling medical supplies, and keeping the principle of prioritising the demand and convenience of the people in the supply, KCNA said.

Tracing efforts were intensified with some 11,000 health officials, teachers and medical students joining an intensive medical examination of all inhabitants of the country to find and treat people with fever.

KCNA said that various sectors of the national economy are keeping production and construction while taking thorough anti-virus measures. Kim had ordered that limited activity be allowed in each city and county.

The World Health Organization warned that the disease could spread quickly in North Korea, which had no vaccine programme and declined international help.

South Korea offered working-level talks on Monday to send medical supplies, including vaccines, masks and test kits, as well as technical cooperation, but said the North had not acknowledged its message.

The United States State Department said it was concerned about the outbreak's potential impact on North Koreans, and that it supports vaccine aid to the country.

To this end, we strongly support and encourage the efforts of U.S. and international aid and health organisations in order to prevent and contain the spread of COVID - 19 and to provide other forms of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable groups in the country, a spokeswoman said.

The U.S. envoy for North Korea, Sung Kim, has a phone call with South Korea's new nuclear negotiator, Kim Gunn, and hasn't elaborated.