Article last updated on June 2, 2022.
After two years of claiming no confirmed COVID-19 cases, North Korea disclosed a nationwide outbreak on May 13 and launched emergency epidemic prevention measures. The epidemic began in late April.
Officially, only a handful of cases have been confirmed as COVID-19, with the rest attributed to an unidentified “fever.” This is likely due to insufficient testing capabilities, and many are assumed to be COVID-19 related, however, that might not be the entire picture. North Korean state media has been publishing daily data on the outbreak, which is featured below. 38 North will update these numbers daily as new information becomes available.
As the epidemic comes under control in Pyongyang, authorities are battling rising numbers of cases in regions outside the capital and that’s slowing the overall rate of decline , according to the latest government figures.
In the 24 hours to 6pm on June 1, an additional 96,910 new cases of fever were reported, which is up 4 percent on the day earlier. New cases have been bouncing between 100,000 and 88,000 for the last week as regional outbreaks affect the progress made in cities.
However, as the number of new cases rises, so does the reported number of recoveries. It was 108,990 on June 1. As a result, the overall number of current cases was 165,390, which is down 7 percent on the day.
In total, 3.8 million North Koreans have experienced fever, equivalent to 15 percent of the population.
On Thursday, the World Health Organization said that despite the data, it assumed the situation was getting worse, not better, but its evaluation is hampered by a lack of raw data. “We’re working off the same information that most of you are,” said Mike Ryan, the WHO’s executive director of health emergencies. “We have real issues in getting access to the raw data and to the actual situation on the ground.”
The number of people under treatment in Pyongyang continued to fall to 10,392 in the 24 hours to 6pm on June 1, which is about a third the number of a week ago.
However, the situation in some provinces is not as good. Total cases have fallen in North Pyongan province in the last couple of days but are still more than double the number a week ago. South Hwanghae and Jagang provinces are also experiencing a reversal in recent declines.
Perhaps as a result of the rising cases outside of Pyongyang, state media reported on Thursday that all provinces have intensified their anti-epidemic work. It said each province is mass disinfection of workplaces and dwellings is happening each day and more than 1,800 epidemic prevention posts have been established. The report said authorities are conducting body temperature measurement and disinfection of travelers.
June 1, 2022
The number of new cases of fever dropped for the second day in a row after two days of rises at the weekend, according to government figures. A total of 93,180 people were newly ill on Tuesday, down from 96,020 the day before and 100,710 on Sunday. Recoveries continued to decline alongside the falling number of new cases, and no deaths were reported by state media on Tuesday.
The number of new cases has bounced in a range from 100,000 to 88,000 over the last six days. At present, 3.7 million North Koreans have been reported with feverish symptoms (presumably COVID-19 related), and this seems likely to pass four million later this week.
While it is still unclear what North Korea’s methodology is for data collection, it is clear that the outbreak is still nationwide. State media has yet to mention a vaccination campaign, although Radio Free Asia recently reported that some vaccines have been administered to soldiers working on national construction projects.
North Pyongan province in the country’s northwest is the biggest worry at present, with cases jumping from 35,959 on Sunday to 43,022 on Monday. That represents 1.4 percent of the province’s population, which is a lower rate than has been seen elsewhere but is more than three times the level of cases seen in the province a week earlier.
Cases in Pyongyang continue to drop to 0.4 percent of the city’s population, but problems remain in Nampho, Kaesong and Rason, where the level of current sickness is over one percent in each area.
On Monday, the number of new cases rose in North Pyongan, South Pyongan, North Hwanghae, Ryanggang and Kaesong.
May 31, 2022
North Korea appears to be winning its battle against the epidemic outbreak as cases trend downwards, although it hasn’t been totally smooth sailing, according to government figures.
After eight successive days of decline in the number of new cases, they jumped on Saturday and Sunday. Sunday was also the first day in more than a week where the number of new cases was greater than the number of recoveries.
However, data for Monday showed new cases declining again and a jump in the number of recoveries. An additional death was reported over the weekend to take the total to 70 people, according to state figures.
As of May 29, 3.6 million citizens, equivalent to 14 percent of the population, have experienced feverish symptoms since the outbreak began in late April. Most have recovered, although 182,940 remain under treatment.
The number of people under treatment across the country has fallen significantly from a week earlier. In Pyongyang, 18,726 people remained in treatment on Sunday, equivalent to 0.5 percent of the city’s population.
The highest percentage of cases continues to be in Nampo, Rason and Kaesong. Those three areas and Pyongyang have led the outbreak, and the faster drop in Pyongyang probably indicates the government has deployed more resources to the capital city. One report over the weekend said the situation had improved enough in Pyongyang that residents were now able to leave their homes again.
May 27, 2022
The number of new cases of fever in North Korea continued to drop on Thursday per government data for the fifth day in a row. As of 6 p.m. on Thursday, new fever cases totaled 100,460, a five percent drop since the previous day. This represents the smallest decline in new cases since the outbreak was reported.
There were 233,090 total cases under treatment at 6 p.m. on Thursday, a drop of 14 percent from the day prior.
For the first time in four days, government data reported one new death, bringing the total number of deaths to 69.
Kim Jong Un issued a special order to mobilize Korean People’s Army (KPA) medics to distribute medicine in Pyongyang. According to KCNA, KPA medics have provided medicine and treatments in households in 11 districts of the city.
May 26, 2022
The number of new cases of fever in North Korea continued to drop on Wednesday, per government data released on Wednesday. There were 271,810 total cases under treatment at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, a drop of 16 percent from the day prior.
New cases were reported as 105,500 on Wednesday, down nine percent.
While the emergency conditions continue inside North Korea, state TV has broadcast new propaganda posters produced by the Mansudae Art Studio. This one asks citizens if they are following the emergency quarantine rules.
Across the nation, the number of new and existing cases dropped in every province and city. The epidemic is worse in Kaesong where 3.76 percent of the city’s population was sickened as of Wednesday at 6 p.m. In Pyongyang, cases continue to decline and make up 1.15 percent of the population as of Wednesday evening.
Emergency epidemic control restrictions remain in place.
For more context on the extraordinary reporting by North Korean state media, read a comprehensive analysis by Stimson Center Nonresident Fellow Rachel Minyoung Lee. She writes that the level of detail provided is remarkable for North Korea and underscores the severity of the situation and the leadership’s alarm.
Also on 38 North, William Brown writes North Korean imports of goods from China jumped in April, just before the fever outbreak began. Cross-border trade has been suggested as a possible entry point for COVID-19, although North Korean authorities have not named a suspected source.
May 25, 2022
The number of new cases of fever in North Korea continued to drop on Tuesday as total case numbers also continued their downward trend, according to government data released on Wednesday. There were 323,330 total cases under treatment at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, a drop of 19 percent on the day.
There were 115,970 new cases on Tuesday, down 14 percent on the day but evidence that the epidemic continues to spread even though it appears to be gradually under control, according to state data. As of Tuesday, over three million North Koreans have shown symptoms since the outbreak began in late April. That’s 12 percent of the population, according to official figures.
State television on Wednesday broadcast images of workers delivery food to residents in Pyongyang and rural health workers visiting small villages.
May 24, 2022
North Korea registered its fourth straight daily drop in the number of new cases of fever on Monday and the first day with no reported deaths since the current epidemic was disclosed almost two weeks ago.
There were 134,519 new cases in the 24 hours to 6 p.m. on Monday and 213,680 people recovered, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper reported on Tuesday morning. In an editorial in the same edition, the newspaper likened the health crisis to a warlike condition and called on citizens to rally around the Workers’ Party Central Committee to defeat it.
As of Monday evening, 400,000 North Koreans remain “under treatment” for fever with 2.5m recovered. Together, that means about 11 percent of the nation has shown symptoms since the outbreak began in late April. North Korea has stopped disclosing the number of COVID-19 tests conducted each day and their results.
State media reported over a million medical workers, teachers and students have been mobilized as part of the state response, which has also seen army medics working in pharmacies.
State TV showed images of what it said was increased production at factories manufacturing traditional Korean medicine.
Across the nation, cases fell in all regions except Rason in the far northeast of the country, and Kaesong, which borders South Korea. Both those areas have been heavily affected by the outbreak and while cases have fallen rapidly in Pyongyang, according to government data, they have not abated as dramatically in those two regions.
Kaesong now leads the nation with 5.2 percent of its population currently under treatment. In Rason cases account for 4.7 percent of its population; and in Nampho, 4.4 percent. In contrast, active cases now affect just 1.6 percent of people in Pyongyang.
May 23, 2022
For the third day in a row, the number of people in North Korea currently under treatment for feverish symptoms (presumably COVID-19) dropped on Sunday, according to government figures released on Monday. There are currently 479,400 people in treatment out of a total of 2.8m who have experienced sickness. That represents 11 percent of the population.
The number of new cases is also falling fast and was 167,650 on Sunday. A total of 68 people have reportedly died. That number has been increasing by a single death for each of the last three days.
The data suggests that the government’s lockdown and restrictions on movement are having a positive effect. On Sunday, state television broadcast images of empty streets in several cities across the nation including Wonsan on the east coast and Sinuiju on the Chinese border.
At the same time, thousands of people gathered in the streets of Pyongyang on Sunday, May 22, to attend the state funeral of retired Korean People’s Army (KPA) Marshal Hyon Chol Hae. Almost everyone wore masks except Kim Jong Un and the honor guard members.
Active cases have in Pyongyang halved between May 19 and 21 to just over 100,000 people or about three percent of the city’s population. Cases are also falling in neighboring Nampho but continue to rise slowly in the southern city of Kaesong.
The case surge in South Pyongan province, which is to the north of Pyongyang, appears to have ended and cases have dropped for the last two days, according to the data. Cases rose in South Hwanghae, North Hamgyong and Ryanggang provinces and Kaesong city.
May 21, 2022
For the first time since North Korea began providing outbreak data a week ago, the total number of active cases fell on May 20. State media reports 692,480 people were under treatment as of 6 p.m. on Friday down from more than 60,000 on the day. The government reported 219,030 new cases of fever on Friday and a single new death. In total, 2.5 million North Korean have been sickened by the outbreak, which is about 9.5 percent of the population.
On Saturday, state television broadcasted video of Kim Jong Un attending a late-night politburo meeting to discuss the current situation and the bier of Hyon Chol Hae, a North Korean Army marshall who died earlier this week. In contrast to earlier in the week, Kim was not wearing a mask in the TV images but others were.
Cases continued to fall in Pyongyang, but the outbreaks in the country’s central provinces showed no sign of slowing down, according to provincial-level data. The local data lags the national figures by a day so doesn’t reflect the drop seen on Friday.
In North Hwanghae province, which is to the south of Pyongyang, 3.1 percent of the population was under treatment on Thursday. The rate was 2.8 percent in neighboring Kangwon and 2.5 percent in South Pyongan province, which borders Pyongyang to the north. Rates continue to be high in Kaesong and Rason but nowhere is as bad as Nampho, where nine percent of people are currently under treatment, according to the government figures.
May 20, 2022
North Korea saw 263,370 new cases of fever in the 24 hours to 6 p.m. on Thursday, state media reported Friday morning. That’s equivalent to the number of new cases the previous day. Two people died and 248,720 recovered, according to the government figures. Across the nation, just over three-quarters of a million people are being treated and 65 deaths have been attributed to the outbreak. North Korea is only believed to have tested a small fraction for COVID-19.
On Thursday, state media reported more on the medical response to the epidemic and provided an insight into what the sick can expect. Regional treatment centers have been formed and more isolation wards created but the technological response appears to extend to more thermometers, unspecified injections and traditional medicine. State media also reported thousands of tons of salt were transported to Pyongyang to make antiseptic solution.
It also said work was underway to identify failings in the epidemic prevention measures so far. Consultations had begun to “immediately rectify” the “vulnerable points, vacuums, evils and defects revealed in epidemic prevention work.”
Cases continue to fall in Pyongyang, likely as a result of strict curbs on movement, but they did increase in neighboring Nampo.
Around 38,000 people are currently being treated in the province, which accounts for about nine percent of its population. The general rise in fever cases in the provinces at the center of the country continued on Wednesday, according to government provincial-level data, which runs a day behind the national data. In South Pyongan province, which is to the north of Pyongyang, cases have surged from 43,736 on Monday to 80,920 on Wednesday, but as a percentage of the provincial population, it remains relatively low at two percent.
Cases are also rising fast in South Hamgyong, which has seen a jump from 21,477 on Monday to 53,814 on Wednesday. The latter represents 1.5 percent of the provincial population. The sole death announced on Wednesday was in North Pyongan province.
On May 19, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service told lawmakers that waterborne diseases, like measles and typhoid, had already been spreading and that the fever totals include those outbreaks. That hasn’t been confirmed by North Korea.
May 19, 2022
The number of new fever cases has registered its first rise in three days, North Korean state media reported on Thursday. The country saw 262,270 new cases in the 24 hours to 6 p.m. KST on May 18 but only one death, according to the Rodong Sinmun newspaper. In total, just under two million North Koreans, or nearly eight percent of the population have been hit by the fever outbreak with 741,000 still being treated. Total deaths stand at 63.
Current cases are falling in Pyongyang but starting to rise across the country, according to the latest provincial data released by the North Korean government. In the 24 hours to 6 p.m. on May 17, Pyongyang was overtaken by neighboring Nampho as the area with the greatest number of active cases at 7.7 percent of the population versus 6.8 percent in the capital. Cases also fell in Rason in the northeast of the country from 5.2 to 4.7 percent of the population
Elsewhere, most provinces saw infection rates rise. The largest increases were seen in South Pyongan and South Hamgyong provinces, although with only four days of provincial data having been released by the government, it’s unclear whether any of these changes are down to reporting problems and delays or the underlying epidemic.
Korean Central Television broadcast more images of quarantine and health workers in Pyongyang.
May 18, 2022
North Korean state media reported 232,880 new cases of fever diagnosed in the 24 hours to 6 p.m. KST on May 17. That’s the second day in a row that new cases have dropped, although with only six days of data is it too early to draw conclusions about what this means. An additional six deaths were reported taking the nationwide total to 62 since the outbreak began. There are currently 691,170 active cases nationwide and just over one million people have recovered. In total, 1.7 million people, or 6.7 percent of the population, have experienced symptoms to date.
Pyongyang remains the hotspot of the outbreak with 269,000 active cases, which is about 7.5 percent of the city’s population. On Wednesday, North Korean state television broadcast images of empty streets and parts of the city cordoned off with “No Entry” signs and guards.
It also showed images of health workers visiting people in their homes and workers in full protective equipment carrying bags of gochujang paste, presumably to deliver to homes.
Nearby Nampho has the second-highest level of cases, at 6.7 percent of the population, followed by Rason and Kaesong.
The death toll rose by six people on Tuesday to 62 with an additional death in each age group except the over 60s, which remained the same. Deaths among the under 20s now equal those among the over 60s in this outbreak.
On 38 North’s affiliated blog, North Korean Economy Watch, Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein looks at the government’s numbers and argues they might tell us more about how the government perceives the outbreak than how many North Koreans have actually been infected with Covid-19.
May 17, 2022
North Korean state media reported 269,510 new cases of fever diagnosed in the 24 hours to 6 p.m. KST on May 16 to 6 p.m. KST on May 16. An additional eight deaths were reported taking the nationwide total to 50 since the outbreak began. The country currently has 663,910 active cases and 819,090 people have recovered. Together, that means 1.5 million people, or 5.7 percent of the population, have experienced symptoms.
Provincial data reported on Korean Central Television indicates the fever outbreak is hitting North Korea’s main cities the hardest. In Pyongyang there were 240,459 people being treated as of May 15, accounting for roughly seven percent of the city’s population. Cases in Nampho were equally high at seven percent and in Rason and Kaesong active cases accounted for about 4.5 percent of the populations.
Of the 50 deaths reported to date, about a third have been among North Koreans aged 61 or older. By age group, infants and children up to 10 years old have been second hardest hit with eight deaths, according to state data.