The official KCNA news agency claimed that leader Kim Jong Un visited the National Epidemic Prevention Headquarters and “learned about the spread of Covid-19 throughout the country”.
“A fever whose cause could not be identified spread explosively throughout the country from the end of April,” she said.
Six people with “fever” have died in the country, including one who tested positive for Omicron’s BA.2 subvariant, she said.
The reclusive country reported its first cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, saying North Korea was going into “maximum emergency epidemic prevention” mode.
“On May 12 alone, some 18,000 people had a fever across the country and, at present, 187,800 people are isolated and treated”, according to the same source.
None of the country’s 25 million population is vaccinated against the coronavirus, with Pyongyang rejecting vaccination offers from the World Health Organization, China and Russia.
Kim Jong Un on Thursday chaired an emergency politburo meeting on the epidemic situation and ordered lockdown measures to try to stem the spread of the virus.
“This is the most important challenge and the most important task facing our party to quickly reverse this health crisis situation,” KCNA added.
North Korea has long boasted of its ability to keep the virus at bay, and had not reported a single confirmed case of Covid-19 to the WHO.
Covid may have already spread across the country, analysts say, including major events in April in Pyongyang, including a military parade where neither participants nor spectators wore masks.