SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Friday six people died and nearly 190,000 are under quarantine following a rapid spread of fever across the nation in recent weeks, a day after it first acknowledged a COVID-19 outbreak in a largely unvaccinated population.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency said Friday that more than 350,000 people were treated for fever that "explosively" spread nationwide since late April and that 162,200 people recovered. It said said 187,800 people are being isolated for treatment after 18,000 people were newly found with fever symptoms on Thursday alone.
It wasn't immediately clear how many of the cases were COVID-19 and the country likely lacks testing supplies. The North said one of the six people who died was confirmed to have been infected with the omicron variant.
Experts say a failure to slow infections could have serious consequences because the country has a poor health care system and its 26 million people are believed to be mostly unvaccinated.
KCNA said leader Kim Jong Un was briefed over the fever during his visit state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters on Thursday and criticized officials for failing to prevent "a vulnerable point in the epidemic prevention system."
He said the spread of the fever has been centered around capital Pyongyang and nearby areas and underscored the importance of isolating all work, production and residential units from one another while providing residents with every convenience in curbing the spread of the "malicious virus."