North Korea is advising citizens to combat Covid with traditional medicines such as tea as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout its unvaccinated population.
Earlier this month Kim Jong-un admitted for the first time that the pandemic had reached North Korea.
Previously, he’d bragged that his country’s strict “quarantine front” had held firm when the rest of the world’s defences had failed.
Now, the hermit nation has been forced to advise citizens on potential remedies for what it refers to as a “fever”.
The BBC has been monitoring North Korea’s state media, controlled by Kim Jong-un’s ruling Worker’s Party.
They report that Rodong Sinmun, the state newspaper, has recommended honeysuckle, ginger or willow-leaf tea for those not seriously ill.
Although these may help with coughs, sore throats and inflammation, they will not treat the virus.
Salt water has been another suggestion, with state media reporting that a “thousand of tonnes of salt” has been sent to Pyongyang to make an “antiseptic solution”.
The BBC report that a North Korean couple were interviewed by the media, recommending that people gargle salt water when they wake up and go to bed.
Not only is there not much evidence that this works, even if it did it would do little to prevent the transmission of Covid (which can occur via the nose as well as the mouth).
Some modern medicines have also been suggested to the North Korean people.
State TV reportedly advised patients to use painkillers like ibuprofen and antibiotics like amoxicillin.
Painkillers can ease the symptoms of Covid but, again, obviously won’t combat the virus or prevent transmission.
Regarding antibiotics, the BBC report that “using antibiotics unnecessarily risks developing resistant bugs”.
North Korean misinformation regarding Covid is symptomatic of Kim Jong-un’s failing healthcare system.
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Extreme economic hardship in recent years has seen healthcare services cut, with defectors often reporting that treatments or drugs are hard to get if you are not in a privileged position.
Last year a UN report stated: “Some of the pharmaceutical, vaccination and medical-appliance plants do not reach the level of good practice of the WHO [World Health Organization] and do not meet local demand as well.”