It comes after officials announced the first confirmed cases on Thursday – although experts believe the virus has likely been circulating for some time. There are fears a major outbreak could have dire consequences in North Korea.
Due to the lack of a vaccination program and poor healthcare systems in North Korea, there are fears that it’s population of 25 million is vulnerable.
And on Saturday, state media reported that there had been half a million cases of unexplained fever in recent weeks. The country has limited testing capabilities so most Covid cases are not confirmed.
That figure marked a major increase on the numbers given on both Friday and Thursday. This potentially provided some indication of the scale of North Korea’s outbreak.
“The spread of the malignant epidemic is [the greatest] turmoil to fall on our country since the founding,” the official KCNA news agency quoted Mr Kim Jong-un as saying.
Kim blamed the crisis on bureaucratic and medical incompetence. He went on to suggest that they should learn lessons from the response of countries like neighbouring China.
State media reports that 27 people have died since April after suffering a fever. However, they do not say whether they tested positive for Covid, apart from one death in the capital Pyongyang which was confirmed to be a case of the Omicron variant.
At a meeting outlining new Covid rules on Thursday, Mr Kim was seen wearing a face mask on television for what was believed to be the first time.
He ordered “maximum emergency” virus controls, which appeared to include orders for local lockdowns and gathering restrictions in workplaces.
South Korea has said it offered humanitarian aid after Thursday’s announcement, but Pyongyang is yet to respond.
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