North Korea confirms first ever Covid-19 death

  • North Korea has confirmed its first-ever Covid-19 death.
  • This as the country grapples with an outbreak where much of the public has been isolated.
  • North Korea reported its first cases on Thursday.

North Korea confirmed its first Covid-19 death on Friday, saying fever was spreading "explosively" nationwide and tens of thousands of people were being isolated after falling sick.

The insular country only reported its first Covid cases Thursday, saying it was moving into a "maximum emergency epidemic prevention system" after patients in the capital Pyongyang tested positive for the Omicron variant.

North Korea has been under a rigid coronavirus blockade since the start of the pandemic in 2020, but with massive Omicron outbreaks in all neighbouring countries, experts said it was only a matter of time before Covid snuck in.

"A fever whose cause couldn't be identified explosively spread nationwide from late April," the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

"Six persons died (one of them tested positive for the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron)," it added.

With its 25 million people unvaccinated, North Korea's crumbling health infrastructure would struggle to deal with a major outbreak, experts say.

"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.

Leader Kim Jong Un - seen wearing a mask on state TV for the first time - oversaw an emergency meeting of the Politburo on Thursday and ordered nationwide lockdowns in a bid to halt the outbreak.

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 task facing our Party to reverse the immediate public health crisis situation at an early date," KCNA added.

'Major chaos'

It is likely the nationwide outbreak is linked to a huge military parade held in Pyongyang on 25 April, said Cheong Seong-chang of the Sejong Institute.

North Korea was likely to see "major chaos" due to the spread of Omicron, he added, given the country is reporting nearly 20 000 cases a day.

"If the death toll from Omicron spikes, Pyongyang may have to ask for China's support," he said.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Authorities should bring in the army already
10% - 936 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
54% - 5242 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
34% - 3297 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
3% - 319 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.