Coronavirus: North Korea acknowledges 1st COVID-19 outbreak, orders lockdown

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea has acknowledged its first coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began more than two years ago.

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According to The Associated Press, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that some people with fevers tested positive for the omicron variant in Pyongyang. The report did not specify how many cases had been confirmed from the samples, which were collected Sunday.

Kim Jong Un, the leader of the isolated country, ordered a “strict” nationwide lockdown Thursday, according to Reuters, citing KCNA.

As of March 31, North Korea had not reported any cases of COVID-19 to the World Health Organization; however, foreign experts have strong doubts about the country’s claims of zero infections, according to the AP. North Korea also has declined coronavirus vaccines from COVAX, despite reports that the majority of the country’s 26 million residents are likely unvaccinated, according to the news agency.

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The news came as the rate of new COVID-19 cases appeared to be rising in the United States and declining globally, according to The New York Times. As of Wednesday, the U.S. was averaging 84,329 new cases per day, up 58% from two weeks earlier, the newspaper reported. Meanwhile, the worldwide average was 534,245 new cases per day, down 20% from 14 days earlier.

As for fatalities, the U.S. averaged 327 deaths per day – a decrease of 4% from two weeks earlier, the newspaper reported. The global average hovered at 1,828 daily deaths, down 38% from 14 days earlier.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported Wednesday that 66.3% of the U.S. population is considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19. About 46.1% of fully vaccinated residents have received a booster dose of a coronavirus vaccine, the agency said.

Globally, about 65.5% of people have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, compared with just 15.9% of the population in low-income countries, Oxford University’s Our World in Data project reported Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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