Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

North Korea moves to soften curbs amid doubts over Covid-19 counts

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other top officials discussed revising stringent anti-epidemic restrictions during a meeting on Sunday, state media reported (Lee Jin-man/AP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other top officials discussed revising stringent anti-epidemic restrictions during a meeting on Sunday, state media reported (Lee Jin-man/AP)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other top officials discussed revising stringent anti-epidemic restrictions during a meeting on Sunday, state media reported.

They maintained a widely disputed claim that the country’s first Covid-19 outbreak is slowing.

The discussion at the North’s Politburo meeting suggests it will soon relax a set of curbs imposed after its admission of the Omicron outbreak this month out of concern about its food and economic situations.

Mr Kim and other Politburo members “made a positive evaluation of the pandemic situation being controlled and improved across the country,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

Virus Outbreak North Korea Death Rate
The country’s latest death toll reported on Friday was 69, setting its mortality rate at 0.002% (Cha Song Ho/AP)

They also “examined the issue of effectively and quickly coordinating and enforcing the anti-epidemic regulations and guidelines given the current stable anti-epidemic situation,” KCNA said.

On Sunday, North Korea reported 89,500 more patients with fever symptoms, taking the country’s total to 3.4 million. It did not say whether there were additional deaths.

The country’s latest death toll reported on Friday was 69, setting its mortality rate at 0.002%, an extremely low count that no other country, including advanced economies, has reported in the fight against Covid-19.

Many outside experts say North Korea is clearly understating its fatality rate to prevent any political damage to Mr Kim at home. They say North Korea should have suffered many more deaths because its 26 million people are largely unvaccinated against Covid-19 and it lacks the capacity to treat patients with critical conditions. Others suspect North Korea might have exaggerated its earlier fever cases to try to strengthen its internal control of its population.

Virus Outbreak North Korea
On Sunday, North Korea reported 89,500 more patients with fever symptoms, taking the country’s total to 3.4 million (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service/AP)

Since its May 12 admission of the Omicron outbreak, North Korea has only been announcing the number of patients with feverish symptoms daily, but not those with Covid-19, apparently because of a shortage of test kits to confirm coronavirus cases in large numbers.

But many outside health experts view most of the reported fever cases as Covid-19, saying North Korean authorities would know how to distinguish the symptoms from fevers caused by other prevalent infectious diseases.

The outbreak has forced North Korea to impose a nationwide lockdown, isolate all work and residential units from one another and ban region-to-region movements. The country still allows key agricultural, construction and other industrial activities, but the toughened restrictions have triggered worries about its food insecurity and a fragile economy already hit hard by pandemic-caused border shutdowns.