North Korea tells WHO it’s still virus-free

World

FILE – In this Feb. 5, 2021, file photo, a staff member, right, of the Pongnam Noodle House disinfects the hands of a woman coming into its restaurant in Pyongyang, North Korea. Isolated North Korea has continued to claim a perfect record in keeping out the coronavirus in its latest report to the World Health Organization, on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. At the beginning of the pandemic more than a year ago, North Korea shut its borders and described its efforts to keep out the virus as a “matter of national existence.” It banned tourists, jetted out diplomats and still severely limits cross-border traffic while quarantining tens of thousands of people who have shown symptoms. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin, File)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Isolated North Korea has continued to claim a perfect record in keeping out the coronavirus in its latest report to the World Health Organization.

At the beginning of the pandemic more than a year ago, North Korea described its efforts to keep out the virus as a “matter of national existence.” It shut its borders, banned tourists and jetted out diplomats. It still severely limits cross-border traffic and has quarantined tens of thousands of people who have shown symptoms.

But it still says it has found no case of COVID-19, a widely doubted claim given its poor health infrastructure and a porous border with China, its economic lifeline.

In an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday, Edwin Salvador, WHO’s representative to North Korea, said the North has reported it tested 23,121 people for the coronavirus from the beginning of the pandemic to April 1 and that all results were negative. Salvador said the North said 732 people were tested between March 26 and April 1.

WHO officials say the North is no longer providing the U.N. agency with the number of people it quarantines with suspected symptoms.

North Korea said Tuesday it would skip the Tokyo Olympics to protect athletes from the “world public health crisis caused by COVID-19.”

The U.N.-backed program to ship COVID-19 vaccines worldwide said in February that North Korea could receive 1.9 million vaccine doses in the first half of this year. However, COVAX has since warned of global shortages because the Serum Institute of India, which is licensed to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine, is putting its supplies into domestic demand while India’s virus caseload is surging.

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