North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong Un has sharply criticized the way his health authorities are handling the pandemic. According to a report by the state news agency KCNA on Monday, Kim complained at a meeting of the Politburo of the ruling Workers’ Party that pharmacies are not supplied with medicines on time, which is due to an “irresponsible attitude to work” and a lack of organization on the part of the responsible officials. The reaction to the outbreak was bungling.

In the isolated country, the corona situation is apparently coming to a head dramatically. Kim ordered the military to “immediately stabilize” drug supplies in the capital Pyongyang, state news agency KCNA reported on Monday.

North Korea only announced on Thursday that the highly contagious omicron variant had been discovered in Pyongyang. Kim said the outbreak had caused “major unrest” in the country. A “total lockdown” has been ordered for all provinces and cities, according to KCNA. Despite drastic measures, North Korea reports high numbers of new cases in the unvaccinated population every day.

On Monday, state media reported eight new deaths and hundreds of thousands more cases with fever symptoms, citing a competent authority. Since the outbreak began at the end of April, more than 1.2 million people have fallen ill, and around 564,860 are currently in quarantine.

With the eight new deaths within 24 hours as of Sunday evening (local time), the number of deaths has risen to 50 so far. It was unclear how many so-called fevers and deaths can be proven to be due to Covid-19.

If North Korea does not get the outbreak under control quickly, experts estimate that the country will face serious consequences. The health system is considered rudimentary, the population as almost unvaccinated, and the nutritional status of the 26 million inhabitants as poor.

The leadership in Pyongyang has so far resisted accepting the vaccines offered through the UN procurement program Covax. Such a step would involve international controls.