North Korea is testing rivers, air and trash as efforts against COVID gather momentum

Pak Jong Chon, member of the Presidium of the Politburo and secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, inspects a pharmacy amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Pyongyang, North Korea in this undated photo released May 17, 2022 by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA via REUTERS

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SEOUL, May 27 (Reuters) – North Korean health authorities are testing rivers, lakes, the air, and household sewage and garbage for the coronavirus as the country ramps up its fight against its first outbreak, state media said on Friday.

The isolated country has been in a heated battle against an unprecedented COVID wave since it declared a state of emergency and imposed a nationwide lockdown this month, raising concerns about vaccine shortages, medical supplies and food shortages.

State media said authorities are stepping up testing and disinfecting across the country after reporting a “stabilizing” trend in the outbreak this week, including signs the fever wave was easing and a relatively low death toll. Continue reading

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About 100,460 more people showed fever symptoms Thursday night, compared with nearly 400,000 about 10 days ago, official KCNA news agency said, citing data from the state Epidemic Prevention Headquarters.

The total number of fever patients since April rose to 3,270,850 among the population of 25 million and the death toll to 69, a day’s increase from the previous day.

In another broadcast, KCNA said antivirus bureaus collected samples from many sources to check whether areas had been infected with COVID-19.

“Emergency epidemic control sectors at all levels give priority to testing samples collected in rivers and lakes, while hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of sewage and thousands of tons of garbage are disinfected and samples examined and analyzed every day,” KCNA said.

Test methods were not discussed in detail. North Korea said last year it had developed its own polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing device but never confirmed how many people tested positive, instead reporting the number with fever symptoms.

Experts have said these numbers may be underreported, making it difficult to gauge the extent of the situation. Continue reading

Video provided by KCNA showed a group of officers wearing protective gear and medical masks carrying boxes with signs reading “sample carrier” or “bacteria, virus tester.”

Reuters was unable to independently verify the information contained in the video.

“Officials are collecting samples from people with fevers … and testing beverages made in Pyongyang’s water factories to make sure they’re clean and safe,” Jo Chol Ung, deputy head of Pyongyang’s municipal sanitation and anti-epidemic center, told filming.

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Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Minwoo Park and Joori Roh; Edited by Leslie Adler and Gerry Doyle

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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