February 29 coronavirus news
Japan's cherry blossoms are a huge tourist draw -- and a source of national pride.
But this year, at least two cherry blossom festivals won't be going ahead.
The Osaka Mint cherry blossom festival in Japan has been cancelled over coronavirus outbreak concerns, according to a statement from the organizers.
In Tokyo, the Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival also announced it would cancel its event this year, including its main attraction of lighting up trees along the river.
Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Limited (HKEX) is donating cash to help support the fight against coronavirus.
The stock exchange is donating HK$10 million (US$1.28 million), the listed company said in a tweet on Saturday.
The donation will be allocated to several welfare organizations that “provide relief and support to those in need.” HKEX did not specify which organizations the funds will be donated to, or provide a timeline for the distribution.
A historic Wall Street sell off, the first case on US soil that could not be traced to travel to countries battling the virus, and news of drug shortages outpaced White House efforts to show everything was under control.
"It's going to disappear. One day it's like a miracle, it will disappear," Trump said at the White House Thursday as the virus marched across Asia and Europe after US officials said the US should brace for severe disruption to everyday life.
The President also warned that things could "get worse before it gets better," but he added it could "maybe go away. We'll see what happens. Nobody really knows."
The President's comments, which seemed divorced from the gravity of the situation, followed CNN reporting that raised new questions about Trump's capacity to handle the crisis.
For weeks, aides and allies have tried to impress upon him the seriousness of the coronavirus situation, warning him of the threat to the global economy and -- by proxy -- his own reelection prospects, according to people familiar with the conversations.
Devastating losses in Wall Street that finally convinced him to put a face on the crisis on Wednesday. But his erratic news conference only fanned the impression of a leadership vacuum.
Read more about Trump's response to coronavirus here.
Japan’s Ministry of Health updated its numbers of novel coronavirus Friday to a total of 935 cases -- up on an earlier count of 907 cases.
At least 11 people have died from the virus in the country, according to Japanese health officials.
Of the 935 cases, 705 are from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama.
The American-owned cruise ship was put under quarantine by Japanese authorities for two weeks in February after a coronavirus outbreak was detected on board.
Six people from the ship have died from coronavirus.
Last week, a top Japanese government adviser admitted that the quarantine measures enacted on the Diamond Princess cruise ship may have allowed additional infections to spread among the ship's crew and passengers.
But by failing to isolate the crew of the Diamond Princess from the beginning of the quarantine, infected workers may have passed on "secondary or tertiary" infections to their fellow crew members and passengers, thereby exacerbating the deadly outbreak, according to Dr. Norio Ohmagari, the director of the Disease Control and Prevention Center at the government-funded National Center for Global Health and Medicine.
Read more about the Diamond Princess cruise ship here.
Hakone is a resort town in Japan just outside of Tokyo -- and normally at this time of the year, it would be bustling with visitors.
It's a place with hot springs and mountain views.
But as Japan tried to battle the coronavirus outbreak that's infected more than 900 people in the country alone, the town is eerily quiet.
Hotels, restaurants and tourist sites are unusually empty, with few foreign visitors in sight.
Hear more about what the town is like from CNN correspondent Will Ripley:
Over half of all confirmed cases in South Korea are connected to the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji religious group, according to South Korean authorities.
In total, 1,557 cases -- or 53.1% of South Korea's total cases -- are connected to the group. The vast majority of those are in the city of Daegu.
There are 2,931 total coronavirus cases in South Korea, and 2,055 of them in Daegu. Of the cases in Daegu, 1,356 are connected with the group.
What is the Shincheonji religious group?
Shincheonji Church of Jesus, the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony was established on March 14, 1984, by Lee and is centered around the personality of its founder. Little is known about his past.
The group -- which is an offshoot of Christianity -- says it has about 245,000 members more than 31,000 of them from overseas.
Why would the virus have spread through the group?
According to former member Duhyen Kim, attendance at services was mandatory. Members need to swipe in and out of services with a special card, and any absence was followed up on. Sickness was not a reason to miss services.
He describes how, when he was a member, followers would sit on the floor during hours-long services "packed together like sardines."
And according to Kim, attendees are not allowed to wear anything on their faces -- even glasses -- during prayer time.
How has the group handled the outbreak?
There's been heavy criticism of the group's level of transparency. South Korea's Gyeonggi provincial governor, Lee Jae-myung, said in a radio interview with Korean station TBS, that the Shincheonji group had not initially cooperated with officials as promised.
Daegu police deployed 600 officers to find hundreds of members, knocking on doors, tracking phones and scouring security camera footage to find them, and asking them to self-isolate.
Members of the public signed an online petition filed to the president's office calling for Shincheonji to be dissolved.
But Shincheonji says it has close to 1,100 buildings and is disinfecting them to try to stem the spread of the virus. It also says it is cooperating with local authorities, and has shut down all church services and gatherings.
Read more about how the virus spread through the group here.
Taiwan confirmed five additional coronavirus cases on Saturday, raising the total tally to 38, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
The cases include a cleaner and three medical staff who had contact with a person before they tested positive for coronavirus.
The four all developed a cough, runny nose and fever between February 18 to 25, the statement said.
Authorities have shut down the room the previous case stayed in before testing positive.
The fifth new case is a woman in her 60s. She toured Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt from January 29 to February 21, and developed a sore throat and cough on February 20.
The UAE has 19 confirmed cases, while Egypt has one confirmed case.
An Icelandic man in his 40s who recently traveled to Italy has been infected with the coronavirus, according to Icelandic authorities.
The man traveled to Northern Italy -- where most of the coronavirus cases are centered -- but he didn't go to what authorities have termed the "designated risk zone," according to Iceland’s Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management.
He's now in isolation at Landspitali National University Hospital in the country's capital, Reykjavik.
He is not considered severely ill but is showing common symptoms of the virus. The government is working to trace the man’s path to see who else may be at risk of exposure.
In a striking contradiction to White House assertions that the coronavirus is under control, the Pentagon's chief of personnel is sharply warning that the virus poses an increased "threat" in areas where US troops and defense personnel are located around the globe.
In a February 25 memo, Matthew Donovan, who is filling the top personnel job on a temporary basis, informed the military's most senior leaders that as the novel coronavirus continues to spread, it is "an increasing force health protection (FHP) threat in areas where Department of Defense (DoD) personnel live and work."
CNN has learned that top US commanders around the globe are increasingly concerned that as allies shut down borders and travel in response to the virus' spread, there's a risk that by the end of March, US military readiness may start degrading, according to several defense officials.
The military leaders' concerns and Donovan's memo are the latest signs that the virus is becoming a national security challenge. It is affecting the military, curtailing diplomats' movements, straining global supply chains and shaking the US economy, which saw stock markets drop more in the past week than they have since the economic crisis of 2008.
Read the full story here.