- North Korea has confirmed its first death from Covid-19.
- This while the country deals with an outbreak in which much of the public has been isolated.
- North Korea reported its first cases on Thursday.
North Korea confirmed its first Covid-19 death on Friday, saying the fever was spreading “explosively” across the country and tens of thousands of people were being isolated after falling ill.
The island country only reported its first Covid cases on Thursday and said it was moving towards a “maximum emergency epidemic prevention system” after patients in the capital Pyongyang tested positive for the Omicron variant.
North Korea has been under a rigid coronavirus lockdown since the start of the pandemic in 2020, but with massive Omicron outbreaks sweeping across neighboring countries, experts said it was only a matter of time before covid crept in.
“A fever whose cause could not be identified has spread explosively across the country since the end of April,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
“Six people died (one of them tested positive for the Omicron subvariant BA.2),” it added.
With its 25 million people unvaccinated, North Korea’s crumbling health infrastructure would struggle to cope with a major outbreak, experts say.
“On May 12 alone, about 18,000 people with a fever occurred across the country, and up to 187,800 people are being isolated and treated so far,” KCNA said.
Leader Kim Jong Un, seen wearing a mask on state television for the first time, oversaw an emergency Politburo meeting on Thursday and ordered nationwide lockdowns in a bid to stem the outbreak.
On Friday, KCNA said Kim visited the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters and “learned about the national spread of Covid-19.”
“It is the most important challenge and the supreme task facing our Party to reverse the immediate public health crisis situation at an early date,” KCNA added.
The nationwide outbreak is likely related to a large military parade in Pyongyang on April 25, said Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute.
North Korea is likely to experience “great chaos” due to the spread of Omicron, he added, given that the country reports almost 20,000 cases a day.
“If the death toll from Omicron rises, Pyongyang may have to ask for China’s support,” he said.