Dozens of people in two South Pyongan Province hospitals recently died after suffering symptoms similar to those caused by COVID-19 infections, Daily NK has learned.
“The dozens of people who died recently were all patients at a facility caring for tuberculosis patients and the hepatitis care center at the Pyongsong City Hospital,” a source in South Pyongan Province told Daily NK on June 4.
The Pyongsong City Tuberculosis Care Center and the Hepatitis Care Center at the Pyongsong City Hospital are both focused on treating patients with infectious diseases. Patients in these facilities are typically discharged only after receiving permission from their doctors.
The patients who died were all being hospitalized for preexisting conditions, but expired while receiving intensive care after they began showing signs of COVID-19 infections.
Both hospitals quickly blamed tuberculosis or hepatitis for the deaths and hospital workers were ordered to stay silent about the dead patients, the source said.
The sudden spike in deaths led some patients in the hospitals to run away from the facilities out of fear of COVID-19.
“Groups of patients left the hospitals out of fear that they could die if they stayed there any longer,” the source told Daily NK, adding, “Local authorities along with hospital managers were alarmed by this.”
Local and hospital authorities were reportedly concerned that the runaway patients might infect broader society with their diseases.
Local rumors about the runaway patients reportedly focused on the reaction of the authorities, which suggested that officials are still concerned about COVID-19.
Late last month, public health authorities in South Pyongan Province reportedly conducted a province-wide survey of people who showed symptoms similar to those caused by COVID-19 infections.
According to the source, the survey found that there are around 1,500 people quarantined either at home or at medical facilities in the province after complaining of high fevers, coughing, difficulty breathing, and other symptoms. Most of them are self-quarantining at home, while only a few with severe symptoms are in medical facilities.
North Korea has typically ordered those showing symptoms similar to COVID-19 infections to quarantine themselves at home. Those with severe symptoms or those deemed “high-risk,” such as recent travelers abroad, are being quarantined in state-designated facilities.
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