FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks commute amid concerns over the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Pyongyang, North Korea March 30, 2020, in this photo released by Kyodo. Picture taken March 30, 2020. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korea said on Sunday a total of 42 people had died as the country began its fourth day under a nationwide lockdown aimed at stopping the impoverished country’s first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak.

On Thursday North Korea acknowledged for the first time a COVID outbreak and ordered the lockdowns. State news agency KCNA said the country was taking “swift state emergency measures” to control the epidemic.

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

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

Health authorities had set up more epidemic prevention posts, and urgently transported medical supplies to hospitals and clinics, while senior officials had donated reserve medicines, KCNA reported.

At least 296,180 more people came down with fever symptoms, and 15 more had died as of Sunday, the outlet said.

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

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

Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Richard Chang



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