North Korea has ordered a strict national lockdown after confirming its first official Covid infections.
State media have reported an Omicron outbreak in the capital, Pyongyang, but did not state the number of cases.
According to reports, Leader Kim Jong-un had vowed to eradicate the outbreak, which it called a “severe national emergency” that had breached the country’s “quarantine front”.
But observers believe the virus has long been present in the country.
Outsiders say the nation’s 25 million population is vulnerable as North Korea has declined to administer a Covid-19 vaccine programme, even rejecting offers from the international community to supply millions of AstraZeneca and Chinese-made Sinovac jabs last year.
There have also been concerns about North Korea’s impoverished healthcare system.
North Korea’s main way of combating Covid has been to seal its foreign borders – it was one of the first countries to do so, in January 2020.
But this has also stopped essential supplies from entering the country, which has led to food shortages and a cratering economy.