SEOUL — North Korea reported a dramatic surge in suspected coronaviruses infections and deaths on Saturday as it struggled to contain its first reported outbreak, which the country s leader, Kim Jong-un, said could be the biggest crisis since our nation s founding. An additional 174,400 people had symptoms, like fever, that could be due to Covid 19, nearly a tenfold jump from the 18,000 reported on Friday. It also said 21 more people had died in connection with the outbreak, bringing the country's total to 27. The reports did not say how many new infections or deaths had been definitively linked to Covid 19 through testing.
"North Korea is reporting only people with fever because it doesn't have enough test kits," said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute in South Korea. Some people with fever may not be actual patients, but there could be far more cases among asymptomatic people without any fever. The North has announced that the actual number of infected people will likely be more than the number of infected people. North Korean health officials were quoted as saying that most of the deaths were caused by overdoses of medication and other negligence caused by a lack of knowledge in scientific treatment. The state-owned Korean Central News Agency said that at the meeting, Kim criticized health officials in the North s ruling Workers Party for incompetence and irresponsibility.