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North Korea reports 8 more deaths as Kim blasts virus response

North Korea on Monday reported 8 new deaths and 392,920 more people with fevers amid a growing coronavirus outbreak as leader Kim Jong Un blasted officials over delays in medicine deliveries and ordered his military to get involved in the pandemic response in the country’s capital, Pyongyang.

The North’s emergency anti-virus headquarters said more than 1.2 million people fell ill amid a rapid spread of fever since late April and about 564,860 are currently under quarantine. The eight new deaths reported in the 24 hours through 6 p.m. Sunday brought its death toll to 50.

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State media didn’t specify how many of the fever cases and deaths were confirmed as coronavirus cases. Experts say North Korea most likely lacks testing supplies and equipment to confirm coronavirus infections in large numbers and is mostly relying on isolating people with symptoms at shelters.

Experts say the failure to slow the virus could have dire consequences for North Korea, considering its poor health care system. Its population of 26 million people is believed to be mostly unvaccinated after the government shunned millions of shots offered by the U.N.-backed Covax distribution program, most likely over concerns related to international monitoring requirements.

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