Thousands of North Koreans have caught fever symptoms from a possible outbreak of Covid-19, with 21 more deaths recently reported. Kim Jong Un said this has been the “greatest turmoil” that has befallen North Korea since the country was founded 70 years ago. The impoverished nation grappling with an economic crisis now scrambles to curb the outbreak that could put North Korea in a major humanitarian crisis.

According to Al Jazeera, the nation admitted its first Covid-19 outbreak early last week although it has claimed there had been zero infections in the country since the pandemic wreaked havoc across the globe two years ago. 

State media KCNA reported the new deaths now bring the total to 50 epidemic-related fatalities with the number of fever cases ringing up to more than 1, 213, 500 infections. Over 564,000 are still receiving treatment while 648,030 have fully recovered from the virus although the state media would not clarify which of these are actual Covid-19 cases.

As of Thursday last week, North Korea now has imposed maximum preventive measures – two years after it held a widely doubted claim of having a clean record of keeping out the coronavirus.

The country’s supreme leader called for unity between its government and the people to stabilize the outbreak and eventually put an end to the epidemic. North Korean officials have laid down plans on how to swiftly distribute medical supplies around the country with Kim donating some of his private stash of medical supplies to help push the campaign. The leader added that most of the infections are coming from communities that are isolated.

Meanwhile, sample tests collected over the weekend from an unspecified number of fever cases from Pyongyang confirmed they were infected with the Omicron variant. Only one Omicron variant death has been confirmed by the country’s state media.

As it is, North Korea is only one of two countries in the world that does not have a Covid vaccination campaign. The country also has limited testing capabilities which may also account for the small fraction of infection cases it has released. The country has rejected offers of Covid-19 vaccines from South Korea, China, and the WHO.

North Koreas leader Kim Jong Un appearing in a face mask on television People sit near a screen showing a news broadcast at a train station in Seoul on May 12, 2022, of North Koreas leader Kim Jong Un appearing in a face mask on television for the first time to order nationwide lockdowns after the North confirmed its first-ever Covid-19 cases. Photo by Anthony Wallace/AFP Getty Images