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North Korea said on Friday that six people died and nearly 190,000 are under quarantine following a rapid spread of fever across the nation in recent weeks, The Associated Press reported, citing North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency.

The report comes a day after North Korea acknowledged for the first time that a COVID-19 outbreak had been recorded in the country. North Korea had long insisted it had no single case of the virus on its territory, but that claim was being questioned by outside experts.

KCNA said that more than 350,000 people were treated for fever that "explosively" spread nationwide since late April and that 162,200 people recovered. It said 187,800 people are being isolated for treatment after 18,000 people were newly found with fever symptoms on Thursday alone.

It was not immediately clear how many of the cases were COVID-19. The North said one of the six people who died was confirmed to have been infected with the Omicron variant of the virus.

KCNA said the country’s leader Kim Jong Un was briefed over the fever during his visit state emergency epidemic prevention headquarters on Thursday and criticized officials for failing to prevent "a vulnerable point in the epidemic prevention system."

In April of 2020, several months after the COVID-19 pandemic began, Kim disappeared from the public eye for several weeks, leading to speculations about his health. Among other things, it was speculated that he was in hiding due to fear of the coronavirus.

North Korean media subsequently published photos of Kim attending a ribbon cutting ceremony at a fertilizer factory.

In July of that year, Kim placed the city of Kaesong near the border with South Korea under total lockdown after a person was found with suspected COVID-19 symptoms.

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