A statistical survey done in North Korea revealed more than 100 deaths and 13,000 “suspected” coronavirus cases in the northeastern province of North Hamgyong alone.
A Radio Free Asia report quoted an unnamed North Hamgyong official saying that “the number of patients who died due to suspected coronavirus symptoms is more than 100.”
The survey has undercut the North Korean regime’s claim that the country remains totally “virus-free,” said the report.
“In Chongjin alone, where the provincial government agencies are located, about 5,400 people have been diagnosed as suspected coronavirus patients,” said the RFA source, who requested anonymity.
The source added that more than 10 residents died after showing symptoms.
Since the start of the pandemic in January 2020, North Korea has taken widespread measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including the complete shutdown of its border with China.
All trade with China were also suspended and lockdowns of entire counties and cities, and a ban on travel between provinces were implemented.
Pyongyang declared its “preventative measures” successful in April 2020.
Pak Myong Su, director of the anti-epidemic department of North Korea’s Central Emergency Anti-Epidemic Headquarters, told foreign media that “not a single person was infected” with the virus.
Observers, however, have doubted the claim, citing North Koreas’ crumbling medical infrastructure and the relative ease by which people could cross the border to China.
In April last year, RFA reported that the government warned the public through health lectures that COVID-19 had at that time been spreading in three specific areas of the country.
The survey conducted by the Ministry of Health earlier this month, which compiled data of “suspected coronavirus patients” and those who died from “related symptoms,” revealed some 13,000 cases in North Hamgyong alone.
The survey’s results noted that most of the suspected cases were in the cities, including the provincial capital Chongjin, North Korea’s third largest city and home to more than 600,000 people.
Another source, an official of the city of Rason, bordering Russia in the province’s northeast, told RFA on March 24 that the city had more than 6,000 confirmed cases.
The World Health Organization did not respond to RFA inquiries regarding the nationwide statistical survey as of March 25.
In its March 19 report, the WHO reported zero confirmed COVID-19 cases through to March 11 in North Korea.