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“On May 12 alone, some 18,000 persons with fever occurred nationwide and as of now up to 187,800 people are being isolated and treated,” KCNA said.

With its 25 million people not vaccinated against Covid, North Korea’s crumbling health infrastructure would struggle to deal with a major outbreak, experts say.

Leader Kim Jong Un oversaw an emergency meeting of the Politburo on Thursday and ordered nationwide lockdowns in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.

On Friday, KCNA said Kim visited the state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters and “learned about the nationwide spread of Covid-19”.

“It is the most important challenge and supreme tasks facing our Party to reverse the immediate public health crisis situation at an early date,” KCNA added.

North Korea has turned down offers of Covid vaccines from the World Health Organization, China and Russia.

It is surrounded by countries that have battled—or are still fighting to control—significant Omicron-fuelled outbreaks.

South Korea, which has high rates of vaccination, has recently eased almost all Covid restrictions, with cases sharply down after a spike in March.

China, the world’s only major economy to still maintain a zero-Covid policy, is battling multiple Omicron outbreaks—with some major cities, including financial hub Shanghai, under strict stay-at-home orders.

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