North Korea has told the World Health Organisation it tested more than 30,000 people for the coronavirus through June 10 but has yet to find a single infection.
In a monitoring report on Tuesday, the WHO said that North Korea’s testing figures included 733 people who were tested during June 4-10, of which 149 were with influenza-like illnesses or severe respiratory infections.
Experts widely doubt North Korea’s claim that it has not had a single case of the virus, given its poor health infrastructure and porous border with China, its major ally and economic lifeline.
Describing its anti-virus efforts as a matter of national existence, the North has banned tourists, jetted out diplomats and severely restricted cross-border traffic and trade. The self-imposed lockdown has caused further strain on an economy already battered by decades of mismanagement and crippling US-led sanctions over the country’s nuclear weapons programme.
During a political conference last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for officials to brace for prolonged COVID-19 restrictions, indicating that the country isn’t ready to open its borders anytime soon.