North Korea reports 'mysterious' gastrointestinal disease outbreak amid COVID-19 wave
Amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, North Korea on Thursday reported the eruption of another infectious gastrointestinal disease, the name of which isn't yet known. According to reports by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has donated his private medicines to those affected. It's unclear how serious the disease is and how many people have been affected by it.
- North Korea has been plagued with enteric infections for a long time now and this is due to a lack of clean drinking water for its citizens and poor healthcare infrastructure.
- Meanwhile, the news agency Associated Press quoted Ahn Kyung-su, chief of DPRKHealth.org, as saying that the country is using the infectious disease to show that their leader Jong-un actually cares for his people.
The KCNA reported that people were suffering from an "acute enteric epidemic." Rodong Sinmun, the North's main newspaper, also carried a front-page photo showing Jong-un and his wife Ri Sol-ju reviewing the medical supplies that they were donating. Some observers say that since the leader needs greater public support to deal with pandemic-related issues, the country is publicizing this image of Jong-un.
Many observers believe that the infection is something like typhoid, dysentery, or cholera, which are intestinal illnesses caused by germs via contaminated food and water. This is because the country has poor health infrastructure facilities and lacks proper water treatment facilities. To recall, the North faced a surge in COVID-19 cases last month, which was a burden on its healthcare facilities.
"(Jong-un) stressed the need to contain the epidemic at the earliest date possible by taking a well-knit measure to quarantine the suspected cases to thoroughly curb its spread, confirming cases through epidemiological examination and tests," KCNA reported. Meanwhile, South Korea's capital Seoul is also closely monitoring the outbreak. The South's Yonhap news agency reported the North's "fever" cases (COVID-19) were over 26,000 on Thursday.
In May, North Korea witnessed large numbers of COVID-19 cases among its unvaccinated population even after initiating the "maximum emergency quarantine system." The country had confirmed the presence of the contagious Omicron variant, prompting all provinces, cities of the country, and its international borders to be placed under absolute lockdown. Notably, till May, it had boasted of keeping COVID-19 at bay since its emergence.