SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea said today that six people died and hundreds of thousands of others fell ill amid an explosive spread of fever across the nation, a day after it acknowledged a COVID-19 outbreak in a largely unvaccinated population for the first time since the pandemic began.
The true scale of the coronavirus outbreak in North Korea is still unclear, as North Korea, which lacks COVID-19 diagnostic kits and other medical equipment, said it hasn't found why the fever has happened.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency said that more than 350,000 people have been treated for fever that “explosively” spread nationwide since late April and that 162,200 of them were recovered. It said that 18,000 people were newly found with fever symptoms on Thursday alone.
KCNA said one of the six people who died was confirmed to have been infected with the omicron variant. Currently, it said that 187,800 people in North Korea are being isolated for treatment.
Hours after North Korea confirmed the outbreak Thursday, North Korea launched three short-range ballistic missiles toward the sea, South Korea and Japan said, in what possibly was a show of strength after leader Kim Jong Un publicly acknowledged the virus outbreak. It was the North's 16th round of missile launches this year.
Israel plans 4,000 more settlements
Israel advanced plans for the construction of more than 4,000 settler homes in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, a rights group said, a day after the military demolished homes in an area where hundreds of Palestinians face the threat of expulsion.
Hagit Ofran, an expert at the anti-settlement watchdog group Peace Now, told The Associated Press that a military planning body approved 4,427 housing units at a meeting Thursday that she attended. “The state of Israel took another stumble toward the abyss and further deepened the occupation,” she tweeted.
U.N. Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland condemned the announcement, calling the settlements a “major obstacle to peace” that undermines hopes for a two-state solution.
Ex-leader back in office in Sri Lanka
Five-time former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was reappointed Thursday in an effort to bring stability to the island nation, engulfed in a political and economic crisis.
Wickremesinghe, a contentious choice by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, took his oath in a ceremony at the president's residence. Protesters have blocked the entrance to the president's office for more than a month.
The president's brother, Mahinda Rajakapsa, resigned as prime minister on Monday following violent attacks by supporters on peaceful anti-government protesters. His resignation automatically dissolved the Cabinet, leaving an administrative vacuum.
11 migrants dead after capsizing
A boat loaded with suspected migrants capsized north of an uninhabited island near Puerto Rico and 11 people had been confirmed dead while 31 others were rescued Thursday, authorities said.
It wasn't immediately clear how many people were aboard the boat when it turned over, U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad said. He said a “mass rescue effort” was still underway.
“We're looking to rescue as many people as we can and find as many survivors as we can,” he said.
At least eight Haitians were taken to the hospital, although the nationalities of all those aboard the boat were not immediately known.
The incident was the latest in a string of capsizings across the region as migrants from Haiti and the Dominican Republic flee violence and poverty in their countries.