North Korea has announced its first COVID death, a day after the country confirmed its first official coronavirus case since the start of the pandemic.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said 350,000 people have been treated for a fever that has spread “explosively” across the country.
KCNA said five other people have died, but it wasn’t immediately clear how much of the total illness was COVID-19†
On Thursday, the country’s leader ordered a strict national lockdown, after state media confirmed first official COVID outbreak of an unspecified number of people in the capital Pyongyang, who have contracted Omicron.
KCNA said that of the 350,000 people who developed a fever since late April, 162,200 have recovered.
It added that 18,000 people were newly found with fever symptoms on Thursday alone, and 187,800 people are being isolated for treatment.
Mr Kim visited the epidemic prevention headquarters on Thursday and criticized officials for failing to prevent “a vulnerability in the epidemic prevention system”.
He said the spread of the fever is centered around the capital and underlined the importance of isolating all work and residential units from each other while providing convenience during the lockdown.
It is possible that the spread of the virus was accelerated by a massive military parade in the capital on April 25, where Mr. Kim displayed his army’s most powerful missiles in front of tens of thousands.
an analyst at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, Cheong Seong-Chang, said the pace of the fever’s spread suggests the crisis could last for months and possibly until 2023, causing major disruptions in the ill-equipped country.
The announcement of the virus outbreak yesterday raised concerns about the country’s poor health care system and the 26 million people believed to be largely unvaccinated.
North Korea has so far shunned the vaccines offered by the UN-backed COVAX distribution system, possibly because of international monitoring requirements.
The country also closed its border to nearly all trade and visitors for two years, shocking an economy already damaged by crippling US-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile program.
Some experts say the announcement of the outbreak could indicate a willingness to receive outside help.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Thursday that Beijing is offering North Korea help in dealing with the outbreak.
The South Korean Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said the South was willing to provide medical and other aid to North Korea on humanitarian grounds.