North Korea announced 21 new fever deaths Saturday and said more than half a million people had been sickened nationwide, two days after confirming its first case of COVID-19.

Despite activating its maximum emergency quarantine system to slow the spread of disease through its unvaccinated population, North Korea is now reporting tens of thousands of new cases daily.

North Korea confirmed Thursday that the highly contagious Omicron variant had been detected in the capital Pyongyang, with leader Kim Jong Un ordering nationwide lockdowns.

It was the North’s first official admission of COVID-19 cases and marked the failure of a two-year Coronavirus blockade maintained at a great economic cost since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, North Korea has said only one of the first six deaths it announced Friday had tested positive for COVID-19.