North Korea is struggling with an outbreak of the coronavirus and is resorting to very striking remedies. State media recommends hot drinks and saltwater, among other things, to the population to combat the symptoms, the BBC reported.
Until more than a week ago, the authorities maintained that the isolated country had been protected from the corona pandemic. When the virus finally showed up, state leader Kim Jong-un immediately announced a lockdown. The army was also deployed to manage the distribution of medicines in the capital Pyongyang.
There are no official corona figures, but the North Korean state news agency announced last week that 820,000 North Koreans have developed a “fever” since April. 42 people are also said to have died.
The country closed its borders in early 2020 to protect itself against the pandemic and has since rejected all outside medical assistance. Last year, three million Chinese-produced vaccine doses offered under the UN’s international Covax vaccination program were refused.
The state media is now recommending sick citizens with traditional means to treat the “fever”. Those who are not seriously ill are advised by the government newspaper Rodong Simnun to drink ginger or honeysuckle tea or a hot drink made from willow leaves.
State media also interviewed a couple who recommend gargling with saltwater. Thousands of tons of salt have since been sent to Pyongyang to make an antiseptic, the state news agency said. Although these agents can alleviate certain symptoms, they cannot of course cure covid patients.
Finally, state television has recommended painkillers such as ibuprofen, as well as antibiotics. However, antibiotics are for bacterial infections, not viruses. If used excessively, they can lead to resistant bacteria.
Healthcare in North Korea is free, but the system is under pressure as the economy has contracted in recent years due to sanctions and extreme weather events. Closing the borders has only exacerbated the problems. Especially outside the capital Pyongyang, the health care system would suffer from a shortage of personnel, medicines and equipment.