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North Korea said on Sunday a total of 42 people had died as the country entered its fourth day under a nationwide lockdown aimed at stopping the first confirmed outbreak of Covid-19 in the impoverished country.

At least 296,180 more people showed symptoms of fever and 15 others died on Sunday, the outlet said.

North Korea’s admission on Thursday that it is battling an ‘explosive’ Covid-19 outbreak has raised fears the virus could devastate a country with an underfunded healthcare system, limited testing capacity and no program vaccination.

State news agency KCNA said the country was taking “swift emergency measures” to control the outbreak, but there were no signs that Pyongyang was set to accept international vaccine offers.

“All provinces, cities and counties across the country have been totally locked down and work units, production units and residential units closed off from each other since the morning of May 12 and a strict and intensive examination of all people is ongoing,” KCNA reported. on Sunday.

A day earlier, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the spread of Covid-19 had thrown his country into “great turmoil” and called for an all-out battle to overcome the outbreak.

Despite the closures, Kim and other top officials attended the funeral of Yang Hyong-sop, a former de facto head of state during the reign of Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, on Saturday, KCNA reported.

Health authorities set up more epidemic prevention posts and rushed medical supplies to hospitals and clinics, while senior officials donated reserve drugs, KCNA reported.

A “large proportion” of deaths are due to people “reckless in taking medication due to lack of knowledge and understanding of Omicron variant virus stealth infection disease and its correct treatment method”, indicates the report.

Korean Central Television aired treatments for fever on Saturday night. A doctor at Kimmanyu Hospital suggested “gargling with salt water” and taking different medications for high temperature, headaches, and muscle and joint pain.

KCNA also suggested drinking Lonicera japonica tea or willow leaf tea three times a day.

Experts say North Korea appears to lack capacity to test those tens of thousands of symptomatic patients. KCNA did not report how many of those suspected cases tested positive for Covid-19.

Overall, North Korea has reported 820,620 suspected cases, of which 324,550 are still under medical treatment, KCNA said.

North Korea had previously claimed no confirmed cases of the virus and is one of only two countries in the world yet to launch a vaccination campaign against Covid, according to the World Health Organization.

Its self-imposed closures have slowed trade and raised concerns about food shortages or other hardship, aid organizations said.

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