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North Korean military ramps up Covid response as outbreak grows

North Korean military medics ramped up the distribution of medicines to fight a growing coronavirus outbreak, state media said, with the number of reported cases of "fever" nearing 1.5 million.

Leader Kim Jong-un has ordered nationwide lockdowns to try to slow the spread of the disease through the unvaccinated population.

He has deployed the military after what he has called a botched response to the outbreak.

Hundreds of personnel in camouflage uniforms from the Korean People's Army medical units were seen rallying in the capital Pyongyang in photos released by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The military "urgently deployed its powerful forces to all pharmacies in Pyongyang City and began to supply medicines under the 24-hour service system", KCNA said.

Mr Kim had strongly criticised healthcare officials for their failure to keep pharmacies open.

North Korea's leader has put himself front and centre of the country's Covid response since its first case was announced last week, saying the outbreak is causing "great upheaval".

Authorities had reported more than 1.48 million cases of "fever" as yesterday evening, KCNA said, with the death toll at 56.

"At least 663,910 are under medical treatment," the agency said.

Authorities have stepped up media awareness campaigns and pharmaceutical factories have increased the production of medicines, KCNA reported.

No response to South Korea

North Korea has one of the world's worst healthcare systems, with poorly equipped hospitals, few intensive care units, and no Covid treatment drugs or mass testing ability, experts say.

"Most North Koreans are chronically malnourished and unvaccinated, there are barely any medicines left in the country, and the health infrastructure

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Kim Jong

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