The test results for a man in North Korea suspected of being the country’s first official coronavirus case were “inconclusive,” a World Health Organization (W.H.O.) official told Reuters on Wednesday.
North Korea continues to deny that it has any confirmed Chinese coronavirus cases. Had it been confirmed, this suspected case would have been the country’s first officially acknowledged infection. As Breitbart News reported last month, South Korean media, citing North Korean sources, estimate that about 500 people have died from coronavirus in North Korea. The true number of infections remains unknown.
“The person was tested for COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus], but test results were inconclusive,” Dr. Edwin Salvador, W.H.O. representative for North Korea, said in an email to the news agency.
“As many as 64 first contacts and 3,571 secondary contacts of the suspected case have been identified and quarantined in government facilities for a period of 40 days,” Salvador added. Such an extreme reaction casts doubt on North Korean officials’ claims that the man’s test was “inconclusive.”
On July 26, North Korean state media reported that dictator Kim Jong-un had declared a national “top-class” emergency alert and locked down the city of Kaesong, which borders South Korea. In announcing the emergency, Kim said that “the vicious virus” may have entered the country.
This followed shortly after state media reported that a North Korean defector who had recently snuck back into the country from the South was presenting coronavirus symptoms. State media reports at the time purposefully omitted if the suspected case had been tested for coronavirus, saying only that an “uncertain result was made from several medical check-ups,” Reuters reported.
“Kaesong remains under lockdown, and household doctors continue to conduct surveillance in the city,” the W.H.O.’s Salvador said on Wednesday.
On June 16, South Korea confirmed that North Korea blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong amid heightened diplomatic tensions between the two technically warring nations. North Korean state media claimed Kim Jong-un was infuriated over what he perceived as South Korea’s failure to stop leafleting campaigns against the North. The established practice sees North Korean defectors and human rights activists in South Korea send anti-Pyongyang leaflets over the border to North Korea via balloons.