The novel coronavirus pandemic has spread to every continent of the world except Antarctica, with over 3.3 million confirmed cases and more than 230,000 deaths.
Yet over a dozen nations continue to report they have not seen a single case.
Here’s where COVID-19 appears to have been avoided — for now.
The rogue nation’s health ministry has continued to report zero cases in weekly updates to the World Health Organization, the WHO’s representative to North Korea Edwin Salvador told the Associated Press in late April.
In its most recent update, Salvador said the ministry had tested 740 people for the coronavirus as of April 17 and no one tested positive. Tens of thousands of people have been quarantined to date as they await testing, according to WHO reports.
Yet doubts remain, particularly as North Korea shares a border with China, which remains its primary trading partner. While that land border has been closed since January, goods are still being brought in by sea, officials in both countries have confirmed.
Defectors and experts have told the Associated Press that the North Korean regime is likely lying about the lack of infections, saying the regime wants nothing to be seen as a threat to leader Kim Jong Un’s rule. They also argue the country’s medical system has never fully recovered after collapsing in the 1990s and suffering through the SARS and H1N1 outbreaks of the 2000s.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based website run mainly by North Korean defectors, reported in early March that 23 people have died from COVID-19. A week later, reporters cited sources claiming nearly 200 soldiers “from several branches of the military” have died from suspected coronavirus symptoms. None of the reports have been independently verified.
North Korea’s main newspaper recently called its public health system “the most superior in the world” and said that Kim Jong Un’s devotion to improving it is the reason why there are no infections, according to the AP.
The autocratic ex-Soviet country has gone even further than North Korea, with officials and state-controlled media not even using the word “coronavirus,” according to Reporters Without Borders. The free speech advocacy organization says the word has also been removed from health information brochures distributed in schools, hospitals and workplaces.
But Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov told a briefing in late April that its official data is true and the country is “not hiding anything,” according to Reuters.
Healthcare Minister Nurmukhammed Amannepesov told the same briefing the Central Asian nation had 30,000 test kits at its disposal and was ordering 40,000 more from Russia, Turkey and Germany.