WHO not yet notified of North Korea COVID outbreak, it says

WHO not yet notified of North Korea COVID outbreak, it says
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un chairs a Worker’s Party meeting on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak response in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 12, 2022. KCNA via REUTERS

GENEVA (Reuters) -A World Health Organization official said on Thursday the U.N. global health agency had yet to receive any formal notification of North Korea’s first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak.

North Korea had never previously confirmed a COVID infection, although South Korean and U.S. officials have said there could have been cases in the isolated country, given its trade and travel with China before it sealed its border to block the virus in early 2020.

“WHO is yet to receive an official report from the Ministry of Health, DPR Korea, about the confirmed COVID-19 case being reported in the media,” the WHO’s country representative Edwin Salvador said in an email to Reuters.

“WHO is in touch with the national IHR (International Health Regulations) focal person and other Ministry of Health officials.”

Under the legally-binding IHR, the body’s 194 members, including North Korea, are obliged to report a public health emergency within 24 hours. However, there are no sanctions for those who fail to comply.

This aspect of the rules has drawn criticism since the pandemic and the WHO members are reviewing the rules as part of a broader reform package.

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