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North Korea tested people showing 'severe acute respiratory infections,' WHO says

North Korea continues to ban all outside travelers amid the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
North Korea continues to ban all outside travelers amid the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

June 22 (UPI) -- The World Health Organization said North Korea has reported dozens of flu-like cases and even "severe acute respiratory infections."

The statement was included in its latest update on the country, where about 30,000 people may have been tested since the start of the pandemic.

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The United Nations agency said in its most recent "South-East Asia Region Weekly COVID-19 Situational Report" that the isolated country continues to report "no cases," citing data from North Korean authorities. The WHO and other international agencies are banned from direct access to the population.

North Korea has claimed that it is virus-free, but could be testing a relatively small number of people who may be showing symptoms of COVID-19.

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According to the WHO, 733 people were tested from June 4 to 10. A total of 30,348 people were tested since the start of the pandemic. Among the 733 individuals tested earlier this month 149 people showed "influenza-like illness and/or severe acute respiratory infections," WHO said. The agency did not provide further details on those cases.

North Korea continues to ban all outside travelers. Any visitor admitted to the country is required to complete a 30-day facility quarantine. Most countries require or in the past required a two-week quarantine period for inbound arrivals.

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Gavi, the international vaccine alliance for improved immunization in low-income countries, has said it is working with Pyongyang to distribute vaccines. Gavi is the co-leader of COVAX, the WHO facility for promoting equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

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North Korean news agency KCNA mentioned Tuesday that the regime is "maintaining a perfect posture" in the area of "emergency quarantine," South Korean news service Seoul Pyongyang News reported.

KCNA said the country must maintain "maximum alertness" and "strong discipline" to stay guarded against the virus.

Agencies have not confirmed whether COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to North Korea.

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North Korea is expected to import 1,704,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, according to COVAX.

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