State news agency KCNA said on Saturday that North Korea reported no new cases of the coronavirus for the first time since the country’s first case of infection emerged in May.
No new patients with “fever” have been reported in the 24-hour period since Thursday evening, the agency said, the first since the country began counting coronavirus cases in May.
North Korean officials use the term “fever patient” to identify people infected with the coronavirus because, some say, of a lack of screening tests.
About 4.8 million cases of the virus have been reported in North Korea since the end of April, KCNA said, with “99.994 percent” fully cured and only 204 patients under treatment.
Pyongyang announced its first case of the coronavirus on May 12, and leader Kim Jong Un has taken the fight against the outbreak personally.
In late May, the country said it was beginning to see “progress” in containing the outbreak, but experts cast doubt on that claim, citing the country’s failing health infrastructure and unvaccinated population.
North Korea, one of the first countries in the world to close its borders in January 2020 after the virus emerged in neighboring China, has long boasted its ability to keep the virus at bay.
A study by Johns Hopkins University in the United States last year ranked North Korea’s health care system 193rd out of 195 countries.
Hospitals in the country are poorly equipped, with few intensive care units.
According to experts, the country has no treatment for COVID-19 and lacks the capacity to massively test its population. Another major challenge: About 25 million North Koreans remain unvaccinated, with Pyongyang rejecting the WHO’s offer of vaccines.