North Korea reported 15 more deaths from “fever” on Sunday, just days after the country announced its first-ever cases of Covid-19 and ordered country-wide lockdowns. According to state media KCNA, 42 people died, with 820,620 cases as well as at least 324,550 people receiving medical treatment. North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has stated that the outbreak has caused “great upheaval.”
According to KCNA, “all provinces, cities, and counties in the country have been completely locked down, with working units, production units, and residential units isolated from one another.”
Despite activating its “maximum emergency quarantine system” to slow disease spread among its unvaccinated population, North Korea is now trying to report large numbers of new cases on a daily basis.
North Korea affirmed Thursday that the extremely infectious Omicron variant had been detected in Pyongyang, prompting Kim to order nationwide lockdowns.
It was the government’s first official admission of Covid cases, and it marked the failure of a two-year coronavirus blockade that had been in place since the pandemic’s inception.
“The spread of the malignant disease has become a great upheaval in our country since the establishment of the DPRK,” Kim said on Saturday, using North Korea’s official name.
North Korea’s health system is in disarray, ranking among the worst in the world, with no Covid vaccines, antiviral treatment drugs, or mass testing capacity.
It has previously rejected offers of Covid flu shots from China and the World Health Organization’s Covax scheme, however, both Beijing and Seoul have issued new aid and vaccine offers.
The KCNA report did not say whether the new cases and deaths tested positive for Covid-19, but specialists say the country will struggle to test and diagnose on such a large scale.
The US and South Korea have alerted that Kim is preparing to conduct some other nuclear test, the regime’s seventh, and that it could happen at any time.
Analysts have warned Kim that he may accelerate his nuclear test plans in order to distract North Koreans from a disastrous Covid-19 outbreak.