orth Korea has confirmed that 21 people have died with “fever” as it continues to battle a Covid-19 outbreak.
The country imposed a lockdown on Thursday after announcing its first outbreak despite having reported no cases since the start of the pandemic two years ago.
“The spread of the malignant epidemic is a great turmoil to fall on our country since the founding,” state news agency KCNA quoted Kim Jong Un telling an emergency meeting of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party.
“But if we don’t lose focus in implementing epidemic policy and maintain strong organisation power and control based on single-minded unity of the party and the people and strengthen our epidemic battle, we can more than overcome the crisis.”
Officials stated that about 280,810 people are being treated and 27 deaths have been recorded since a fever of unidentified origins was reported in late April.
State media did not say whether the new deaths were due to Covid.
KCNA said on Friday that one person with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus had been pronounced dead.
The meeting also heard a report from epidemic control officials that “in most cases, human casualties were caused by negligence including drug overdose due to lack of knowledge of treatment methods”, KCNA said.
Since late April, 524,440 people have shown signs of fever including 174,440 new cases on Friday, KCNA said.
Around 243,630 people have been treated but KCNA has not said how many have been tested or confirmed the total number of Covid cases.
North Korea has been testing about 1,400 people a week, according to Harvard Medical School’s Kee Park, which is not enough to survey the hundreds of thousands of people with symptoms.
North Korea has not confirmed the source of the outbreak. But a Seoul-based website that reports from sources in North Korea said late on Friday some students at a university in Pyongyang had tested positive after participating in an event on May 1.