This has prompted fears of an impending and deadly crisis in the isolated and impoverished nation. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said of the 350,000 people who developed fevers since late April, 162,200 have recovered.
It said 18,000 people were newly found with fever symptoms on Thursday alone, and 187,800 people are being isolated for treatment.
One of the six people who died was confirmed to have been infected with the Omicron variant, KCNA said, but it wasn’t immediately clear how many of the total illnesses were COVID-19.
The announcement comes a day after the country reported its first ever coronavirus case, calling the situation a “major national emergency”.
On Thursday, North Korea reported 18,000 new “fever cases” and six deaths, one of which tested positive for the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron, state media KCNA reported on Friday.
North Korea has not confirmed that all “fever” cases and deaths are COVID-19, likely due to its limited testing capability.
They reported: “A fever whose cause couldn’t be identified explosively spread nationwide since late April. As of now up to 187,800 people are being isolated.”
North Korea had not previously acknowledged any coronavirus cases, though few believe that a country of around 25 million people has been spared by a virus that has infected millions worldwide.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters on Thursday and acknowledged the spreading outbreak meant there was a “vulnerable point” in the country’s epidemic prevention system, according to KCNA.
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China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in a briefing: “As comrades, neighbours and friends, China stands ready to provide full support to the DPRK in its fight against the epidemic.”
North Korea is not believed to have received any Covid vaccinations, despite being eligible for the global COVID-19 vaccine sharing program, Covax.