Kim Jong Un said that North Korea's COVID-19 outbreak is the greatest "turmoil" since its founding.
North Korea said on Saturday that there were over half a million cases of "fever" in recent weeks.
The country is especially at risk due to its under-resourced health system and unvaccinated population.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that the country's COVID-19 outbreak is a "great disaster," the BBC reported, citing state media.
"The spread of the malignant epidemic is [the greatest] turmoil to fall on our country since the founding," in 1948, Kim said during an emergency meeting on Saturday, according to state news agency KCNA.
North Korea said on Saturday that there had been over half a million cases of "fever" in recent weeks, just two days after claiming to have found its first ever COVID case and imposing a national lockdown.
The new figure marked an increase from the estimated 350,000 cases reported on Friday.
The country is especially at risk due to its under-resourced health system, limited testing capabilities, and an unvaccinated, poorly-fed population.
Kim called for an all-out battle to slow the spread of the virus during the meeting on Saturday, and urged the country to have faith in overcoming the crisis, per KCNA.
"If we don't lose focus in implementing epidemic policy and maintain strong organization power and control based on single-minded unity of the party and the people and strengthen our epidemic battle, we can more than overcome the crisis," Kim said.
The North Korean leader blamed the outbreak on bureaucratic incompetence, and said that lessons could be learned from China's response to the virus, Reuters reported.
Experts have warned that the numbers of cases in North Korea are likely to be much higher than the reported figures.
It is one of only two countries in the world not to have had a known COVID-19 vaccination program, and has previously refused offers of vaccines from China.
The country of 26 million people ranks last in the world for its ability to rapidly respond to and mitigate the spread of an epidemic, according to the latest Global Health Security Index in December, Reuters said.