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North Korea said it is suffering an explosive outbreak of 'fever' with 350,000 cases — just one day after announcing its first ever COVID case

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North Korea said Friday that it is experiencing a massive outbreak of a "fever" with at least 350,000 cases, just 24 hours after claiming to have found its first ever case of COVID. 

State-run media reported Thursday that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 had been discovered in Pyongyang on Sunday.

In response, the government launched a "maximum emergency epidemic prevention system," state media said.

However, the government announced Friday via the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that the country was experiencing an "explosive" outbreak of a "fever" which has killed six people and infected 350,000 since April. One of the six people who has died had tested positive for the Omicron variant of COVID, state media said.

It added that 187,800 people are currently either being isolated or treated in hospital.

"A fever whose cause couldn't be identified spread explosively nationwide from late April," KCNA said.

North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un said that the outbreak showed a "grave sign of lapses in our anti-epidemic system," KCNA added. 

Images broadcast by state TV on Thursday showed Kim wearing a facemask for the first time. 

During the pandemic, experts feared a COVID-19 outbreak in North Korea would be devastating, especially as the country is one of only two countries in the world that are yet to start vaccinating their populations. The other is Eritrea.

After the the novel coronavirus began to spread across Asia in early 2020, North Korea shut its borders and committed to a zero COVID-19 policy. It only reopened its borders in January this year. 

The pandemic has hit North Korea hard, even before it reported cases, with the border closure precipitating widespread food shortages.

In an attempt to try and solve the hunger crisis, state-run media reported in October that the government had started breeding black swans to be culled for food. 

As the pandemic raged around the world, North Korea was vigilant in trying to prevent imported cases of COVID-19.

In July 2020, Kim locked down the entire city of Kaesong and issued a "top-class alert" after a person suspected of having COVID-19 snuck across the border from South Korea, according to state media.

In August, North Korea announced new hard labor punishments for anyone who met in groups of more than three people.

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