North Korea says 6 dead, hundreds of thousands ill amid Covid outbreak

North Korea says 6 dead, hundreds of thousands ill amid Covid outbreak

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea said yesterday that six people died and hundreds of thousands of others fell ill amid an outbreak of fever in a nation, a day after it acknowledged a Covid-19 outbreak in a largely unvaccinated population for the first time since the epidemic began.

North Korea, which lacks Covid 19 diagnostic kits and other medical equipment, hasn't found why the coronaviruses outbreak has occurred, and the true scale of the coronaviruses outbreak is still unclear. Some experts say the outbreak can cause serious consequences because of the country's health care infrastructure, which is broken and many of its 26 million people are unvaccinated and malnourished.

More than 350,000 people have been treated for a deadly disease that has spread nationwide since late April, and 162,200 of them were recovered, according to the North s official Korean Central News Agency. On Thursday alone, 18,000 people were found to have had fever symptoms.

It wasn't immediately clear how many of the cases were Covid 19, as KCNA said the cause of the fever couldn't be identified.

One of the six people who died was confirmed to have been infected with the omicron variant, according to KCNA. It said that 187,800 people in North Korea are being isolated for treatment.

North Korea imposed a nationwide lock-down on Thursday in order to control its first acknowledged Covid 19 outbreak after keeping a widely doubted claim for more than two years that it fully fended off the virus that has spread to nearly every place in the world.

State media said Monday of samples collected from an unspecified number of people with fevers in the capital, Pyongyang, confirmed they were infected with the omicron variant. The reports did not specify the number of cases.

KCNA said Kim was briefed on the flu during his visit to the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters on Thursday and criticized officials for failing to prevent a vulnerable point in the epidemic prevention system. He said that the spread of the disease has been centered around Pyongyang and nearby areas and highlighted the importance of isolating all work, production and residential units from one another while providing residents with every convenience in order to curb the spread of the disease. It is the most important task for our party to reverse the immediate public health crisis situation at an early date, restore the stability of epidemic prevention and protect the health and well-being of our people, KCNA quoted Kim as saying.

North Korea had restricted cross-border traffic and trade for the past two years, and is believed to have ordered troops to shoot any trespassers who cross its borders because of its anti-coronavirus campaign.

The border closures further battered an economy already damaged by decades of mismanagement and crippling U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile program, pushing Kim to perhaps the toughest moment of his rule since he took power in 2011.

In January, North Korea reopened railroad freight traffic between its border town of Sinuiju and China s Dandong, but China announced a halt to the trade last month as it deals with the spread of Covid 19 in its border areas.

After North Korea confirmed the outbreak Thursday, North Korea launched three short-range ballistic missiles toward the sea, South Korea and Japan said, in what was possibly a show of strength after Kim publicly acknowledged the virus outbreak.

It was the North's 16th round of missile launches this year as it pushes a brinkmanship that will force the United States to accept North Korea as a nuclear power and negotiate sanctions relief and other concessions from a position of strength.