“A fever, the cause of which could not be determined, has exploded across the country since late April,” the report said. On Thursday alone, around 18,000 people across the country were suffering from fever.

On Thursday, the internationally isolated country confirmed the first corona outbreak since the pandemic began more than two years ago. KCNA reported it was a “major national emergency.” Ruler Kim Jong Un ordered nationwide lockdowns.

According to KCNA, Kim visited the state epidemic prevention center on Friday, where he “informed himself about the nationwide spread of Covid-19” and called for further lockdowns. The outbreak makes it clear “that there is a weakness in the epidemic prevention system,” the news agency quoted the ruler as saying.

According to Sejong Institute North Korea expert Cheong Seong-chang, the massive outbreak could be related to a large military parade that took place in Pyongyang on April 25. The fact that the parade was held despite the omicron variant rampant in neighboring China shows “that Pyongyang had too much confidence in its ability to fight the virus,” he said.

In view of the rapid spread of the virus, the expert expects “great chaos”. If the number of deaths increases sharply, Pyongyang “may have to ask China for support,” he added.

Beijing had already declared its willingness to support North Korea on Thursday. However, the country is currently battling outbreaks in several provinces itself. The economic metropolis of Shanghai has been sealed off for weeks.

The already isolated communist North Korea sealed off its borders in early 2020 to protect itself from the pandemic. According to several experts, North Korea’s health system would struggle to cope with a major virus outbreak.