North Korea is stepping up production of drugs and medical supplies, including sterilizers and thermometers, in the fight against an unprecedented coronavirus outbreak, KCNA state media reported on Thursday.
The isolated country, which has introduced nationwide closure, is also increasing production of traditional Korean drugs used to reduce fever and pain, KCNA said, calling them “effective in preventing and treating the pest.”
The widespread wave of COVID-19, first confirmed by North Korea last week, raised concerns about a shortage of medical resources and vaccines, and the UN human rights agency warned of “devastating” consequences for its 25 million people.
Another at least 262,270 people reported symptoms of the fever, and another died as of Wednesday night, KCNA reported, citing data from the Emergency Prevention Headquarters.
It is not specified how many people tested positive for the virus.
North Korea reported 1,978,230 people with symptoms of fever and 63 deaths, and imposed tough antiviral measures.
In the capital Pyongyang and nearby regions, factories are producing more injections, drugs, thermometers and other medical drugs “by lightning”, while across the country, more insulators have been installed and disinfection work has intensified, according to KCNA.
“Thousands of tons of salt were urgently transported to Pyongyang to produce an antiseptic solution,” KCNA said.
The reports came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un criticized the ineffective distribution of drugs and blamed officials for their “immature” reactions to the epidemic.
Without the national vaccination and treatment campaign from COVID-19, state media urged patients to use painkillers and antibiotics, as well as untested home remedies such as gargling with salt water or drinking tea from Japanese Japanese tea or willow leaf tea.
South Korea and the United States, respectively, have offered to help North Korea fight the outbreak, including sending aid, but have not received a response, Seoul’s deputy national security adviser said Wednesday.
However, three planes of the North Korean airline Air Koryo arrived in China and returned to Pyongyang on Monday with medical supplies, a diplomatic source said on condition of anonymity.