Coronavirus: North Korea confirms first-ever COVID death and declares “severe national emergency”; key health concerns to know

 North Korea has confirmed its first-ever COVID case and has declared a "severe national emergency". Leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to "eliminate" the virus, state media reported on Thursday.

The samples taken from patients sick with fever were "consistent with" the virus' highly transmissible Omicron variant, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

Ever since the onset of COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019, which has swept nations all over the world including North Korea’s neighbouring countries like Russia, South Korea, and China, the country has claimed to be COVID free.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered nationwide lockdowns after reporting the first-ever case of COVID. He has ordered factories, businesses and homes to be closed down and reorganised. "He reiterated the importance of the work of all the provinces, cities and counties of the country to take steps for isolating each working unit, production unit and residential unit from each other while locking down their areas and providing the inhabitants with every convenience in curbing the spread of the malicious virus," KCNA reports.

North Korea had claimed to be COVID free till date, but experts had doubts over the claim as all its neighbouring countries, China especially, was severely hit by the pandemic.

The country's borders were sealed in January 2020.

"North Korea's claim of a perfect record in keeping out the virus for two and a half years was widely doubted. But it was believed to have avoided a huge outbreak until now, in part because it instituted strict virus controls almost from the start of the pandemic," AP reported.