North Korea Began Importing COVID-19 Medical Supplies From China Long Before It Reported First Case

Although North Korea admitted its first-ever case of COVID-19 only two weeks ago, it has reportedly been importing virus-related medical supplies from China for a long time now.

What Happened: According to an SCMP reportKim Jong-Un-led North Korea has been importing a large amount of COVID-19 related medical supplies, including 10 million face masks and close to 100,000 thermometers since the beginning of this year.

North Korea had cut off ties with the rest of the world in 2020 as COVID-19 spread rapidly, forcing many countries to shut their borders. However, in January, it resumed cross-border goods train service with trade ally China.

According to the Chinese customs database, 10.68 million face masks in the first four months of the year, valued at $265,851, were exported to North Korea. China in the first two months of 2022 also exported 2,125 garments made of felt or nonwoven fabric, usually used for surgical or medical use as a protective covering.

Chinese exports of thermometers to North Korea totaled 66,000 in January and 94,840 in the first four months of this year. That compares to 2,844 thermometers exported in 2021. 

In March, North Korea also imported 1,140kg of reagent test kits, with an additional 60kg in April. 

China also exported therapeutic respiration equipment with a total value of $2,769 to North Korea, along with 1,000 non-invasive ventilators.

Why It Matters: North Korea, with a 26 million unvaccinated population admitted its first case of COVID-19 on May 12, with Kim later declaring a "serious emergency" and ordering nationwide lockdowns.

As of May 27, the country said its coronavirus situation was "clearly stable." According to the state-owned media, it recorded 3.2 million COVID-19 cases with a single death after a three-day gap.

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