- Angola reported its first case after a Chinese businessman tested positive.
- Haiti confirmed its first two cases.
- Italy’s death toll reached 3,405 – surpassing China’s by approximately 150 cases.
Outbreak Hot Spots Europe – new confirmed cases in the last 24 hours
Actions by Governments
Over 65,000 retired doctors and nurses in England and Wales are being asked to return to the NHS to help battle the outbreak. In Scotland, medical staff who left their profession in the past 3 years are also being asked to consider returning.
The new measure will be effective from midnight on Friday morning until March 31st. People will be allowed to leave their homes to shop for basic goods, such as food and medicine. The quarantine will be enforced by security officials.
The fund is to be used to help companies affected by the crisis and will have the ability to guarantee liability or inject capital when needed. Its model follows the Special Fund for Market Stabilisation, originally set up to support banks during a financial crisis. The government now plans to revive that fund too.
Outbreak Hot Spots Middle East – new confirmed cases in the last 24 hours
Actions by Companies
- Aeroflot is suspending all flights to Washington, Miami, Los Angeles, Dubai and Lisbon from March 29th until April 30th, 2020.
- Air Canada is laying off over 5,000 employees and reducing flying capacity. They are also suspending most international flights by the end of March.
- Alibaba Group is offering a cloud-based coronavirus diagnostic tool to European health institutions. The software is called Damo, and can diagnose COVID-19 with 96% accuracy.
- American Airlines is cutting international and domestic routes, and will use grounded passenger aircraft to operate cargo-only flights between Europe and the United States.
- ArcelorMittal, a multinational steel manufacturer, is closing a blast furnace at its Fos-sur-Mer and Dunkirk plants.
- Bayer AG has donated 3 million malaria tablets to the US government, which could potentially be used in treatment.
- Best Buy Canada are shortening their store opening hours, and are only allowing a few customers in store at a time.
- BMW is closing dealerships across Europe, as well as adjusting production volumes and shutting down plants.
- Bridgestone, a vehicle parts manufacturer, is closing all of their manufacturing plants in North America and Latin America. They aim to resume production no later than April 12th, 2020.
- Chanel has closed all of their factories in France, Italy and Switzerland.
- Delta Air Lines is grounding half of its fleet, removing 70% of their capacity.
- Halfords, a British car-parts retailer, has launched zero-contact vehicle servicing and repairs, in line with social distancing guidance.
- Hermès, a French luxury fashion designer, has closed 42 production plants in France, with only their Vaudreuil plant remaining open, which will now produce disinfectant.
- Holcim and Cemex, both cement manufacturers based in the Philippines, have suspended production and distribution.
- Home Depot Canada has adjusted their hours and are implementing purchase limits on some items.
- Honda is suspending production at all of their North American plants for six days, beginning on March 23rd, 2020.
- JPMorgan Chase is closing 20% of their branches.
- Lenovo is prioritizing support for customers at the ‘front-line’ of the pandemic.
- Lufthansa is grounding 700 of its fleet, removing 95% of their capacity.
- Medtronic have increased their production output of medical ventilators by 40%
- Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceutical, have launched a $20m response fund to help support community health initiatives.
- SoftBank Group Corp is raising $10billion to support companies that have been affected by the pandemic.
- Staples Canada is limiting customer numbers and reducing store operating hours.
- Telstra, an Australian telecommunications provider, have paused job cuts for six months, and are hiring 1,000 extra call centre staff.
- Tesco UK have implemented shopping restrictions to combat panic buying, with customers now only allowed three items per product line. Multi-buy promotions have also been removed.
- Toyota will close plants on March 23th and 24th, 2020, before returning to production on the 25th.
- UPS is assisting with the deployment of drive-up coronavirus testing sites, on behalf of the US government.
- Walmart is hiring 150,000 employees and will offer $550million in cash bonuses to their workers.
Limited supplies of equipment could result in a third wave of infections overwhelming health systems in developing nations, even after an effective vaccine is developed. Africa currently has about 600 cases, compared to the thousands in European countries, but the continent still needs to ‘wake up’, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
In a press conference on March 19, Trump appeared to shift blame for the ongoing pandemic more fully onto China, repeatedly referring to COVID-19 as ‘the Chinese virus’. He also stated that his decision to ban incoming flights from China was opposed by the media and that China had deliberately allowed the virus to spread beyond Wuhan.
In light of the ongoing effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, the White House has informed members of the G7 that the Leaders’ Summit in June will be held via teleconference rather than at Camp David.
Drugs & Vaccines
WHO launched a new trial, aimed to be ‘simple enough’ to allow the participation of hospitals struggling with large numbers of patients. To date, 10 countries have signed up for the trial.
Roche announced that it is working with the US Food and Drug Administration and the US government in launching a phase 3 trial of a drug called Actemra. The medication has been previously used to treat two inflammatory diseases.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) will provide an initial $620,000 to the University of Hong Kong to fund the preclinical testing of their vaccine candidate.
Speaking at a virtual conference hosted in Geneva, the executives stated that they cannot lower the testing standards to speed up the process of having a vaccine on the market.
The Ministry of Public Security in Vietnam issued a warning on March 19th, 2020, over a coronavirus-themed malware campaign that involves emails that supposedly contain Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s directive on countering COVID-19. The malware, which only infects Windows users, is capable of stealing data or engaging in further attacks.
Sophos researchers observed a new sextortion campaign, which asks for $4,000 and threatens to infect family members of the victim with coronavirus if they refuse to pay. The text in the email uses some Greek characters instead of English ones to hide the words from simple text matching.
Chester Wisniewski of Sophos Labs discovered a new scam campaign in which threat actors impersonate the World Health Organisation to ask for donations to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The scammers send emails asking the victims to make donations via Bitcoin payments to a specified wallet address. The legitimate fund currently does not accept Bitcoin payments.
IBM X-Force has recently discovered a new HawkEye malware variant being distributed in emails purporting to be from the World Health Organisation (WHO). The email appears to be sent from WHO’s director general Dr. Tedros Adhanom. The email includes a malicious attachment containing HawkEye malware, which deploys a keylogger and info-stealer.
Researchers at Zscaler discovered a malicious Android app served on a site which claims the user will receive a ‘Corona Safety Mask.’ The app uses its permissions to send SMS messages to contacts in the user’s phone, and spreads itself via a download link. The researchers believe the app to be in the early stages of development and that more functionality will be added in the future.
PhishLabs researchers observed a new phishing campaign that purports to be from an HR department and states that bonuses are no longer distributed the usual way due to coronavirus unless the employee clicks on a statement link. Once clicked, the victim is redirected to a Google Docs page that drops Trickbot.
Discount codes are being offered on forums and marketplaces by hackers attempting to sell their goods and services during the current economic uncertainty. Due to employees working from home, they are not as protected by their regular IT infrastructure, leaving workers more vulnerable to an attack.
AdaptiveMobile researchers have analysed recent spam campaigns that make use of the current coronavirus outbreak as a lure, and have found three overarching themes.
The first focuses on ‘Giveaways,’ where victims are often offered payday type loans. The messages are typically emotionally charged, pushing victims into signing up by stating that banks will be closing soon.
A second type is ‘Alerts’, that promise official public health information if the user responds. These messages are typically used to harvest phone numbers and then follow up with more spam messages.
The third theme is ‘Selling Preventives/Aides/Cures.’ These messages are also emotionally charged and typically attempt to sell users masks, survival guides, as well as medically unsupported treatments like Cannabidiol (CBD) oil. In one instance, the link included in the message redirected to a fake Fox News website attempting to sell CBD oil.
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