Chinese medical team returns home after training North Korea on COVID response

A Chinese delegation of medical experts who last month traveled to North Korea to advise on COVID-19 containment strategies has returned to China, sources in both countries told RFA.

RFA reported last month that the 13 doctors and medical technicians were in Pyongyang to help train North Korean medical personnel.

“The Chinese medical experts left Pyongyang by train on the morning of May 29 and arrived in Dandong in the afternoon,” a North Korea related source, in the city on the Chinese side of the border, told RFA Wednesday on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

They passed on the experience and technology that China has gained about quarantine and response to the coronavirus to North Korea,” the source said.

The Chinese health experts conducted training on the use of vaccines and testing at a bio-research center in Pyongyang, and discussed their clinical experience with staff at four Pyongyang hospitals, according to the source.

“The North Korean quarantine authorities expressed their gratitude for their help in containing the spread of coronavirus in Pyongyang. Cooperation between the two countries regarding the COVID-19 quarantine will continue in the future,” the source said.

State-run media this week reported that the COVID situation had “improved” in North Korea, after the country declared a maximum emergency last month due to a wave of outbreaks. The World Health Organization disagreed with that assessment, saying on Wednesday that the coronavirus situation in North Korea is getting worse, not better.

Authorities still say an ongoing quarantine should continue, a source in the northwestern province of North Pyongan told RFA on condition of anonymity to speak freely.

“Currently, they are doing a project to raise the skill level of hospital doctors in provincial areas,” the second source said.

“In Pyongyang, technical training has already been conducted for medical staff at central hospitals. … Now in the provincial areas, preparation for receiving clinical education on coronavirus testing, medicines and treatment methods are in full swing through an online education system operated by Pyongyang Medical University,” the second source said.

“Doctors in all areas are working really hard.  Doctors have always been respected by the residents, but the popularity of doctors is increasing due to the recent Omicron outbreak,” the source said.

North Korean authorities said on Thursday that the number of new suspected coronavirus cases remained below 100,000 for three consecutive days.

North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that from 6 p.m. on May 31 to 6 p.m. on June 1, there were about 96,610 new fever cases and about 108,990 patients had recovered, while no deaths were recorded.

About 3.8 million people have been hit by outbreaks of fever, 70 of whom have died, according to data based on the most recent reports from North Korean state media published by 38 North. Around 3.7 million are reported to have made recoveries, while around 165,390 are undergoing treatment.

Translated by Leejin J. Chung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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