February 26 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Adam Renton, Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Rachel Bowman, CNN

Updated 9:23 p.m. ET, February 26, 2020
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8:20 a.m. ET, February 26, 2020

Philippines bans travelers from South Korean outbreak province

From CNN's Anna Kam in Hong Kong

The Philippines has issued a ban on people traveling from South Korea's North Gyeongsang province, effective today, according to a statement by the Presidential Palace.

North Gyeongsang province includes the southeastern city of Daegu, where the majority of South Korea's coronavirus cases are located.

Philippine citizens are still permitted to travel to the province for work or study. Philippine officials are conducting a risk assessment for travelers from other parts of South Korea.

South Korea outbreak: There are now over 1,200 cases across South Korea. The latest outbreak began in Daegu and was centered around the Shincheonji religious group, but the virus appears to have spread now beyond practitioners.

3:58 a.m. ET, February 26, 2020

If you're just joining us, here's what you need to know

A worker  sprays disinfectant at a railway station in Daegu, South Korea, on February 26.
A worker sprays disinfectant at a railway station in Daegu, South Korea, on February 26. Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the world, with alarming spikes this week in Europe and the Middle East. In Asia, attention is focused on South Korea, where the number of cases has jumped to more than 1,200.

Here's the latest:

  • US soldier infected: A 23-year-old American soldier stationed in South Korea has tested positive for the coronavirus -- the first US service member to be infected. He is being isolated and monitored on a military base near the city of Pyeongtaek.
  • Few China cases outside virus epicenter: China's National Health Commission reported 406 new cases of the virus today, of which only five were outside Hubei province -- ground zero for the outbreak. China also reported another 52 deaths, all in Hubei.
  • Experts urge US to get ready: President Donald Trump has insisted the virus is under control, and the US Centers for Disease Control said the virus isn't recognized to be spreading in the country. But other officials warn that people need to prepare for a potential spread, and that more resources are needed.
  • Middle East cases rise: More cases were reported today in Kuwait and Bahrain -- all people who had traveled from Iran, where there are now more than 90 cases and 15 deaths. Middle Eastern countries are scrambling to respond to the Iran outbreak with closed borders, travel restrictions, and other emergency measures.
  • Italy under pressure: Italy is now the largest outbreak outside Asia, with 322 cases and 11 deaths. The government is on the defensive, after the prime minister was forced to admit earlier this week that a hospital had mishandled a coronavirus case and contributed to the virus' spread.
  • 2020 Olympics still on: Despite rumors that the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games may be canceled due to the coronavirus, both local organizers and the International Olympic Committee members said today that preparations were continuing as planned.
  • Punished for breaking rules: More than 4,000 people have been detained for "epidemic-related" criminal offences in China. Meanwhile, Singapore has charged two Chinese citizens, one of whom is from Wuhan and was infected with the virus, with lying about their travel history.
  • Hong Kong handouts: Hong Kong's government today announced an economic relief package worth $15.4 billion to boost local consumption and counter the fallout from an economy hit by protests, the US-China trade war and coronavirus. Every permanent resident of the city will receive $1,280.
8:20 a.m. ET, February 26, 2020

South Korea confirms another 115 cases

From CNN's Hyoungjoo Choi in Seoul

South Korea announced another 115 cases of the novel coronavirus today, bringing the total number in the country to 1,261.

The cases were spread across Daegu city, the broader North Gyeongsang Province, and Busan.

The death toll stands at 12.

Earlier, the country had reported 169 more cases and another death -- meaning there have been 284 new cases confirmed today alone.

8:20 a.m. ET, February 26, 2020

Singapore charges coronavirus patient and wife with giving false information about travel history

Visitors walk along a walkway at Marina Bay in Singapore on February 18, 2020.
Visitors walk along a walkway at Marina Bay in Singapore on February 18, 2020. Roslan RAHMAN / AFP via Getty Images

Singapore has charged two Chinese nationals, one of whom was infected with coronavirus, for giving false information about their travel history, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a news release today.

The two people are Hu Jun, a 38-year-old Chinese citizen from Wuhan, and his wife Shi Sha, a 36-year-old resident of Singapore.

Both Hu and Shi had given false information to government officials about their movements and whereabouts from January 22-29 when they were contacted for the purposes of contact tracing, the ministry said. Their case will be heard in court on Friday.

Hu was confirmed to have the coronavirus on January 31. He has since recovered and was discharged from the hospital on February 19, said the news release.

Anyone convicted of an offence under Singapore's Infectious Diseases Act is liable to a fine of up to 10,000 Singapore dollars ($7,150) and six months in prison, said the news release.

"MOH reminds the public that under the Infectious Diseases Act, it is an offence under the law for anyone to withhold or provide inaccurate information to MOH officials during contact tracing. MOH views such actions seriously and will not hesitate to take appropriate action against the perpetrators."
8:19 a.m. ET, February 26, 2020

North Korea steps up import inspections over coronavirus fears

From CNN's Samantha Beech in Atlanta

North Korea has announced stricter inspection and quarantine measures for imported goods to the hermit nation amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported today that the country's government has enhanced the roles and responsibilities of State Commission of Quality Management officials.

These officials are “clearly mindful that any slightest slackness may result in serious consequences," KCNA said.

No cases reported: North Korea has yet to publicly confirm a single case of the coronavirus, despite being surrounded by infected neighboring countries.

8:19 a.m. ET, February 26, 2020

China detains over 4,000 people for "epidemic-related" criminal offenses

From CNN's Eric Cheung in Hong Kong

Chinese paramilitary police officers at Daxing international airport in Beijing on February 14.
Chinese paramilitary police officers at Daxing international airport in Beijing on February 14. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

China has detained 4,260 people for "epidemic-related criminal offences" since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Public Security said today.

Authorities have handled around 22,000 criminal cases relating to the outbreak, with some cases involving the production and sale of inferior face masks and protective materials, vice minister Du Hangwei said at a news conference.

"Up until now, we have seized over 31 million inferior face masks and some protective equipment, with a total value of 174 million RMB ($24.7 million)," he said.

Du did not provide a full breakdown of the charges for the people detained, or specify the penalties.

New rules and punishments: The Chinese government issued new regulations on February 8 to punish anyone who disrupts efforts to control the coronavirus outbreak, warning that those who violate the rules will be subject to arrest and jail. 

Some of the crimes addressed by the new measures included assault of medical staff, tearing protective gear off medical staff, refusing to accept quarantine and treatment measures using violence, and intentionally destroying properties of medical and health institutions.

8:19 a.m. ET, February 26, 2020

China and Japan's relationship is thawing in the time of coronavirus

From CNN's Emiko Jozuka and Serenitie Wang

As China battles the coronavirus outbreak, Japan has proved to be something of an ally.

The Japan Youth Development Association sent boxes of face masks and thermometers to China this week -- and on the side of the boxes, was a stanza from an ancient poem, which had been sent by the grandson of a Japanese emperor to a high-ranking Chinese monk.

"Even though we live in different places, we live under the same sky," read the stanza -- which quickly went viral on Chinese social platform Weibo.

The Japan Youth Development Association sent boxes of aid to China, with an ancient poem on the side to communicate their vision of bridging the divide between people.
The Japan Youth Development Association sent boxes of aid to China, with an ancient poem on the side to communicate their vision of bridging the divide between people. Japan Youth Development Association

Bitter territorial disputes and long-running grievances dating back to World War II have marred the Japan-China relationship for decades.

But the poem signified a thawing in relations between the old enemies that can be traced back to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's state visit to Beijing in 2018.

Compared to a century ago, China and Japan are now both highly modernized, globally significant economies, meaning any potential downturn in their relations could have serious ramifications globally.

With a looming global economic slump and racist coronavirus-related assaults and slurs spreading faster than the outbreak, for now, China and Japan appear to be focusing on what they share in common and what benefits both parties.

Read more here.

8:10 a.m. ET, February 26, 2020

Kuwait confirms 12th case of coronavirus, a traveler from Iran

From Hira Humayun in Atlanta

Kuwait has confirmed another case of coronavirus, raising the national total to 12, according to state news agency KUNA, which cited the country’s health ministry.

The 12th case is a woman who arrived from Iran, and all the reported cases are “in good health and receiving medical treatment at a hospital equipped to deal with coronavirus cases," KUNA reported.

Yesterday, Kuwait had identified two cases -- also with recent travel to Iran, where an outbreak has seen case numbers spike this week.

8:10 a.m. ET, February 26, 2020

3 latest Bahrain cases had all visited Iran

From CNN’s Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi and Hira Humayun in Atlanta

Three more cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the Gulf nation of Bahrain on Tuesday, bringing the nationwide total to 26, according to a statement from Bahrain's health ministry.

All three new cases are women who visited Iran, where case numbers have spiked this past week.

The ministry called on Bahraini citizens who visited Iran in February to self-quarantine at home until the government schedules an examination.

Spike in Iran: There are now more than 90 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 15 deaths in Iran. Many neighboring countries, including Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan have implemented travel restrictions to Iran and or closed borders with the country.