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North Korea’s COVID-19 Tally Nears 2 Million a Week After It Acknowledged First Ever Case

North Korea’s COVID-19 outbreak soared to nearly 2 million by Thursday (May 19), exactly a week after the Hermit Kingdom admitted its very first case.

The nation confirmed 262,270 more cases on Thursday, which took the tally to more than 1.98 million sickened with a fever, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

At least 740,160 people are also in quarantine, the agency said—with images showing health workers in hazmat suits guarding Pyongyang’s closed-off streets, disinfecting buildings and streets and delivering food and other supplies to apartment blocks.

Despite the surge in cases, the kingdom’s anti-virus headquarters reported only one extra death, raising its toll to just 63, an abnormally small number compared to the suspected infections, experts have noted.

Leader Kim Jong Un has called the outbreak a “great upheaval,” berating officials for letting the virus spread and restricting the movement of people and supplies between cities and regions.

The country has shunned millions of vaccines offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution program, and has also ignored offers of help from South Korea and the US to contain the outbreak, according to Kim Tae-hyo, deputy national security adviser for South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol.

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