Eight more people have died on Monday in North Korea in the last 24 hours due to what it described as a “fever-causing illness”, the country’s government-run news agency KCNA Watch reported. The total toll in the country has now touched 50.

“Over 3,92,920 new persons with fever, some 1,52,600 recoveries and 8 deaths were reported from 18:00 of May 14 to 18:00 of May 15 throughout the country,” the KCNA Watch reported.

The country said that as many as 12.13 lakh cases of fever-causing illness have been detected in the country. Out of the total, 6.48 lakh patients have recovered, while 5.64 lakh are being treated by healthcare professionals.

North Korea claims that the illness, whose cause could not be identified, has explosively spread in the country since late April.

However, on May 12, the country said that one of the patients who had died due to the “fever” had tested positive for the Omicron variant of coronavirus. This had prompted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to order a nationwide lockdown.

For two years, North Korea has claimed that not a single case of coronavirus was reported among its population. As of March 31, according to the World Health Organisation, 64,207 North Koreans have been tested for Covid-19. They all tested negative. However, observers cited by the BBC believe that the virus has been present in the country.

None of the 2.6 crore citizens of North Korea has been vaccinated, according to the World Health Organisation. The government had turned down AstraZeneca vaccines from Covax, the global vaccination distribution programme. Experts believe this was because of its initiative’s international monitoring requirements.

On Monday, North Korea’s government-run media said that an emergency meeting was chaired by Kim Jong Un regarding the epidemic.

During the meeting, Kim Jong Un said that medicines provided by the government were not supplied to the citizens through pharmacies on time.

“He [Kim Jong Un] said it is because officials of the Cabinet and public health sector in charge of the supply have not rolled up their sleeves,” KCNA Watch reported. “He strongly criticized the Cabinet and public health sector for their irresponsible work attitude and organizing and executing ability.”

Kim Jong Un also ordered the North Korean army’s medical corps to step in and immediately stabilise the supply of medicines in Pyongyang city.