North Korea’s KCNA state media on Friday reported the deaths of six people who had been sick with a fever, one of whom had tested positive for COVID-19.
“A fever whose cause couldn’t be identified explosively spread nationwide from late April … Six persons died,” it said.
The report added that 187,800 people are being isolated for treatment after 18,000 people were found on Thursday alone to have fever symptoms.
On Friday, state media reported that the country’s leader Kim Jong Un, visited the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters and “learned about the nationwide spread of Covid-19”.
“It is the most important challenge and supreme tasks facing our Party to reverse the immediate public health crisis situation at an early date,” KCNA stated.
The announcement comes a day after North Korea acknowledged a COVID outbreak officially for the first time since the pandemic began. The country has been placed under a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus.
Before confirmation of the outbreak, Pyongyang had maintained that it had managed to stave off the global pandemic, a claim that was widely doubted.
Experts believe the country’s health care system will struggle to deal with a major outbreak, with the added challenge that its population of 25 million people has not been vaccinated.
North Korea has declined shipments of vaccines from the COVAX global COVID-19 vaccine-sharing program and the Sinovac Biotech vaccine from China.
An unnamed spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said on Thursday that there weren’t any current plans in Washington to provide vaccines to North Korea.
“While the US does not currently have plans to share vaccines with the DPRK, we continue to support international efforts aimed at the provision of critical humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable North Koreans,” the spokesperson said.