North Korea on Thursday confirmed its first-ever case of Covid-19, with state media calling it a ‘severe national emergency incident’ after more than two years of keeping the pandemic at bay.

State-run KCNA news agency said samples taken from patients sick with fever in Pyongyang on Sunday were ‘consistent with’ the virus’ highly transmissible Omicron variant.

The country’s top officials, including leader Kim Jong Un, held a crisis politburo meeting to discuss the outbreak and announced they would implement a ‘maximum emergency’ virus control system.

KCNA said Kim told the meeting that ‘the goal was to eliminate the root within the shortest period of time.’

‘He assured us that because of the people’s high political awareness … we will surely overcome the emergency and win the emergency quarantine project,’ it said.

Kim called for tighter border controls and lockdown measures, telling citizens ‘to completely block the spread of the malicious virus by thoroughly blocking their areas in all cities and counties across the country,’ KCNA said.

All business and production activities will be organised so each work unit is ‘isolated’ to prevent the spread of disease, it added.