North Korea marks end of first COVID wave, but risks persist

By Hyonhee Shin and Soo-hyang Choi

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea on Friday said all of its fever patients have recovered, marking the end of its first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, but challenges linger with economic hardships deepening and an unvaccinated population exposed to future resurgences, analysts said.

While state media said the "anti-epidemic situation ... has entered a definite phase of stability", rather than boasting of victory, North Korea said it would "redouble efforts to maintain perfection in the execution of state anti-epidemic policies".

The reclusive country has never confirmed how many people caught COVID-19, apparently lacking testing supplies. But it said around 4.77 million fever patients have fully recovered and 74 died since late April. It has reported no new fever cases since July 30.

South Korean officials and medical experts have cast doubts on those figures, especially the number of deaths.

Shin Young-jeon, a professor at Hanyang University's medical school in Seoul, said while the peak of the first COVID wave may have passed, the stated fatalities were nearly "impossible" and there could be up to 50,000 deaths.