COVID-19 Threat Digest #18, 07 April 2020
Actions by Governments
- Belgium announced new measures to support both workers and those unemployed during the crisis.
- Chile stated that wearing masks will now be mandatory on all public and private transport.
- China reported no new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, for the first time since releasing daily figures in January.
- Czech Republic eased its lockdown measures. Some outdoors sports facilities and stores were reopened, and individuals are now permitted to exercise outdoors without wearing a mask.
- Finland is to start tracking the spread of COVID-19 in its population through randomised antibody testing.
- French government announced a new ‘international travel certificate’ requirement for travel to France. All travellers, whether private or professional (including goods carriers), are required to prove that their travel is essential. The measure went into effect from 6pm CET last night.
- Germany will require all individuals arriving in the country to quarantine themselves for 14 days. The new measure will be effective from April 10th.
- Germany is temporarily permitting 12-hour working days, shorter rest breaks, and work on Sundays and public holidays, for certain professions until the end of June.
- Indian government officials agreed to take a 30% pay cut for one year.
- Iran announced a new package of state-backed loans to support low income families and boost consumer spending. The government is also planning to ease some work restrictions.
- Italy announced a new stimulus package worth €400 billion ($435 billion) to support businesses. Half of the package is said to be allocated to export-oriented companies.
- Kazakhstan announced new tax relief measures for small and medium enterprises, including tax exemptions and a tax deadline extension.
- Lebanon will release about 3,000 prisoners over fears of a rapid spread of the coronavirus in its prisons.
- Nepal and the World Bank signed a $29 million financing agreement to help the country in preventing, detecting and responding to the pandemic.
- Peru announced that a curfew will be imposed on April 9th and April 10th to limit the spread of the virus over Easter holidays.
- Russia imposed restrictions on the sale of masks, respirators and gloves and stated that their prices are not to increase by more than 10%. Only pharmaceutical companies will be permitted to sell the protective equipment.
- Russia will ban the import of ‘cheap gasoline’ as a response to decreasing oil prices worldwide. The decision was made to protect the domestic oil sector as the country will maintain its current oil prices and adjust them based on the inflation rate.
- Singapore closed schools and most workplaces on Friday. The city state is also reconsidering its advice that only those who are ill need to wear masks.
- Sweden is easing rules related to protective equipment to speed up the approval of more equipment that offers sufficient protection. Until now, only equipment with so-called ‘CE marking’ was approved.
- Swedish government is looking to expand its executive powers, including the right to shut down airports and railway stations without parliament’s approval.
- UK government announced a partnership with the games industry in its fight against COVID-19. Gamers will see the government’s slogan ‘Stay At Home, Save Lives’ when playing titles such as Candy Crush Saga, Sniper Elite 4, DiRT Rally 2.0 and Farm Heroes, among other titles.
- UK government announced that Dominic Raab has been asked to deputise as Prime Minister while Boris Johnson is being treated in intensive care for COVID-19, but declined to comment on whether Raab’s new position included responsibility for the UK’s nuclear codes.
- US is believed to be providing at least one more fiscal relief package. The package is likely to contain additional aid to state governments, funding for small businesses, expanded unemployment benefits and direct payments to individuals.
- US AID is providing $2.9 million to support India in its efforts to tackle the outbreak.
- US Army researchers at Fort Detrick began testing potential vaccines on non-human primates.
- US CDC announced $186 million in funding for state and local governments to carry out additional testing and monitoring of COVID-19 cases.
- WHO’s latest Situation Report
Actions by Companies
- Amazon US has launched a shopping section for healthcare organisations to buy PPE and other medical equipment.
- Apple has designed face shields for medical workers, and is shipping 1 million per week.
- Canon has partially suspended their operations in Japan until April 17th, 2020.
- Cineworld has closed all of their cinemas in 10 countries until further notice.
- Cisco has shipped their teleconferencing equipment to hospitals across the globe, to assist doctors in conducting video consultations.
- Debenhams, a UK department store chain, has announced that they are filing for administration due to the economic downturn.
- easyJet has secured a £600 million loan from the UK Treasury and Bank. They are also borrowing £400 million from creditors.
- eBay has pledged $100 million to help North American retailers move to online sales.
- Facebook has offered $25 million in grants to TV and media news outlets, and $75 million in a marketing drive for global media organisations.
- Fujitsu is producing approximately 300 ventilators at their plant in Malaga.
- Getinge, a Swedish medical technology company, are increasing their medical ventilator output by 160%.
- Groupo Mexico has donated land and equipment to hospitals in Juchitan, Mexico.
- Hilton and American Express are donating a million rooms to frontline medical staff in the US.
- Hyundai has extended warranties for their products across the globe.
- IKEA Indonesia has donated household items including blankets, trolleys and bedsheets, to hospitals in the country.
- LG has donated 50,000 virus testing kits to the Indonesian government.
- Mahindra, an Indian carmaker, have opened kitchens across India to feed people in need. They are also continuing to scope ventilator development and produce face shields.
- Mapfre, a Spanish insurance company, has donated $600,000 to the purchase of equipment and medical supplies for hospitals in Panama.
- Microsoft has moved all of their events online until June 2021.
- Nvidia has joined the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, a White House-led task force aiming to accelerate virus research.
- Schaeffler Group, a German manufacturer, has donated €1 million to the German Red Cross.
- Sherwin-Williams has donated 250,000 masks, gloves and lab coats to medical organisations. They are also producing hand sanitizer, and supplying coatings for ventilators, oxygen tanks and hospital bed frames.
- Total has donated €50 million in fuel vouchers for healthcare workers in France.
- Turkish Airlines has increased their cargo flights to 215 a week.
- Valero Energy has donated money to food, domestic violence and community support groups in Quebec.
Drugs, Treatments & Vaccines
Vitalant, a blood donation company in Arizona, has begun a pilot program to collect convalescent plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients for potential treatments. Donors must test negative for Covid-19, and be symptom free for two weeks.
Bill Gates has stated that he plans to help fund factories for the development of seven ‘promising’ vaccines, citing that at most, two of these may make it to final development. Although he acknowledges that the plan will result in the loss of billions of dollars, he stated that making a vaccine sooner and saving critical months is vital, so the expenditure is ‘worth it’.
Societal & Economic Impact
The move comes after a significant rise in the spread of misinformation related to COVID-19. Messages labelled with the double arrow icon, which indicates a lengthy forwarding chain, can now only be forwarded to one chat at a time.
Contact tracing apps on mobile devices could be an effective way of monitoring interactions between people and alerting those who have crossed paths with someone infected by the coronavirus. The privacy challenges are complex, however, and could normalise a level of surveillance often associated with totalitarian regimes.
On April 5, over 100 residents in the Yopougon neighbourhood of Abidjan built barricades and pulled apart a half-built coronavirus testing centre. The crowd returned the following day to throw rocks at police, who repulsed them with tear gas. Police said that the hostility was based on a misunderstanding; the protesters believed that patients would be treated at the facility, putting them at risk of infection, but the building was intended for testing the residents themselves.
Cancelled flights and restrictions on crew transfers are straining the ability to replace seafarers on ships, further impacting global supply chains. Every month, close to 100,000 seafarers need to change over from ships in order to comply with maritime rules on safe working hours and crew welfare.
Traffic lights have been officially sped-up in response to a decrease in traffic of between 55 and 75% on major routes. The changes are intended to give walkers and cyclists green lights more often and for longer, increasing the distance between individuals travelling on roads.
The company posted lower than expected first-quarter sales of $44.9 billion, with an operating profit of $5.2 billion. Analysts believe that Samsung had strong chip sales but took a hit in its smartphone business, as people refrain from expensive purchases amid uncertainty around coronavirus. Phone sales are expected to hit a 10-year low in 2020.
Twenty individuals did damage to a bus in protest at being taken into quarantine by police, after being exposed to a confirmed case.
Heat has been filtered on Coronavirus-related news for the 24 hours leading up to a stock market close. The size of the bubble indicates the volume of articles.
Heat measures the attention a country gets in the news for 24 hours vs media’s average daily reporting on such a country. Above/below 100% = more/less than usual.
The stock market changes are based on the most recent closing levels of major stock market indices.
In a later-deleted Twitter post, Brazil’s Education Minister Abraham Weintraub said that the COVID-19 pandemic would help China “dominate the world”, and appeared to mock Chinese accents. The Chinese embassy in Brazil has responded by calling the declarations ‘absurd and despicable’.
More than 6,000 European doctors have signed a petition for EU leaders to allow 36,000 refugees into Greece, potentially sparing them from a coronavirus outbreak that has already occurred in two camps near Athens. Currently, the men, women and children are staying at overcrowded installations on several isles opposite the Turkish coast.
Florida senator Rick Scott referred to China as an American adversary on the Charlie Kirk Show podcast, and said that the American public would want to boycott Chinese goods after the pandemic. He noted that resale companies like Amazon should help this process by listing where items were manufactured.
The US Department of State has issued a press statement expressing serious concern over the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The statement calls on the PRC to ‘remain focused on supporting international efforts to combat the global pandemic, and to stop exploiting the distraction or vulnerability of other states to expand its unlawful claims in the South China Sea’.
In a televised news conference, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said that America should lift its sanctions, noting that ‘Iran has never asked and will not ask America to help’ when it comes to combating the COVID-19 outbreak.
The decision to ban exports of the anti-malarial medication was reversed soon after Donald Trump threatened retaliation if it was not supplied to the US. An Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said that the drug would be supplied to ‘some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic’, and discouraged speculation ‘or any attempts to politicise the matter’.
Kianoush Jahanpour referred to China’s official figures on the COVID-19 outbreak as a ‘joke’ at a recent press conference and in a tweet, drawing a reproach from the Chinese ambassador to Iran.
NASA’s CIO issued a memo warning the organisation’s employees and contractors about a rise in cyber threats being conducted by cybercriminals and nation-state actors, taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to target NASA electronic devices, networks, and personal devices.
The Bankers Association of the Philippines has received reports of emails asking users to click on a link to prevent the deactivation of their account due to coronavirus. The BAP advises users not to click on such links, as these are phishing attacks seeking to steal personal and sensitive information with the aim of accessing the user’s account.
Insecure coronavirus-themed Android applications are being installed by users in Iran, Colombia and Italy. Even though the app asks for intrusive permissions, there was no evidence of ill-intent in a copycat of the Iranian government’s ‘CoronaApp’. Researchers are confident that the app could be abused in the future. CoronApp-Colombia, endorsed by the Colombian government, contains privacy-affecting vulnerabilities.
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