North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the negligence and laziness of state officials worsened the country's Covid outbreak, state media reported Wednesday, as the number of known cases crossed 1.7 million.
The nuclear-armed country reported its first coronavirus cases last week, and the Omicron variant-fueled outbreak has since ballooned -- marking the failure of a two-year blockade maintained since the start of the pandemic.
Chairing a meeting of the ruling party's Politburo on Tuesday, Kim said there was "immaturity in the state capacity for coping with the crisis" and slammed the "non-positive attitude, slackness and non-activity of state leading officials", the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
North Korea recorded 232,880 new cases of "fever" as of Tuesday evening, bringing the total number to 1.72 million with 62 deaths, KCNA said.
State media reports do not specify how many of the cases and deaths have tested positive for the coronavirus, but experts say the country would struggle to test and diagnose on this scale.
At the Tuesday meeting, Kim promised to "arouse the whole Party like an active volcano" to counter the spread of the virus.
North Korea's leader has put himself front and center of his country's Covid response, saying the outbreak is causing "great upheaval" nationwide.
A spokesperson for the UN human rights office said on Tuesday that measures taken by Pyongyang to fight Covid-19 could have "devastating" consequences for human rights in the country, as restrictions to curb the virus could limit people from getting enough food and meeting other basic needs.
South Korea has offered to send medical supplies, including vaccines, masks and test kits, as well as technical cooperation, to the North but Pyongyang has yet to respond.