COVID-19 Threat Digest – 25 March 2020
- Libya reported its first case.
- Spain’s death toll reached 3,434, surpassing China’s. It has now got the second highest death toll after Italy.
- France’s death toll reached 1,100. French Health Minister Olivier Véran stated that the country’s initial 15-day lockdown will likely be extended.
- The UK recorded its highest single-day death toll after 87 people died. The country’s death toll is now at 422.
- Italy saw 743 new deaths on Tuesday. The country’s death toll is now at 6,820, with a total of 69,176 cases.
Outbreak Hot Spots US & Canada – new confirmed cases in the last 24 hours
Actions by Governments
The country went into a full lockdown for a minimum of at least 4 weeks. The new measure was announced after New Zealand recorded 50 new cases, bringing the country’s total to 205.
As of Wednesday, movement will be restricted and people over the age of 65 will be banned from leaving their homes. People will be allowed to leave their homes for work and to buy groceries. The lockdown will be enforced by the police and army.
The measure was announced after a spike in new cases was registered. The total number of cases in India is now at 519, with 10 reported deaths. Non-essential businesses will be closed and almost all public gatherings will be banned. The lockdown will last for at least 21 days.
The Malaysian government decided to extend border closures and the shutdown of non-essential businesses until April 14th. The decision came after the number of new cases continued to rise over the last week.
US Senate leaders and the Trump administration agreed on what is to be the largest US economic stimulus package in history. The package would provide direct payments of up to $1,200 to most adults, as well as unemployment insurance. It also includes a $367 billion program for small businesses, helping them to pay employees who have to stay at home.
Premier Li Keqiang has told officials to report new cases honestly, and not to cover up reports of infection as travel restrictions to the Hubei province are relaxed. Analysts have questioned China’s infection metrics since the nation has recently experienced several days with no new cases.
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.
Actions by Companies
- Amazon has closed a warehouse in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, due to several workers testing positive for the virus.
- Anheuser-Busch, a US-based brewing company, has announced that they are to begin producing and distributing hand sanitizer across the country.
- Apple has updated their Siri voice assistant to output coronavirus-related health information. They are also donating 9 million facemasks to healthcare providers in the US.
- ArcelorMittal, a multinational steel manufacturing corporation, has idled their blast furnaces in multiple countries.
- AstraZeneca has donated 9 million facemasks to healthcare providers across the globe. The first shipment is headed to Italy, with other shipments for other countries to follow.
- Bank of Ireland is temporarily closing 101 branches, with 161 remaining open.
- Bombardier have closed their private jet and rail production factories in Ontario and Quebec.
- Deliveroo UK have partnered with BP and Marks & Spencer to deliver food to people who are self-isolating at home.
- Deutsche Bank has temporarily closed 200 branches.
- Diageo, an alcoholic beverage producer, are producing 135,000 litres of sanitizer for health workers in Kenya.
- Domino’s Pizza Australia is experiencing increased customer demand, and is hiring 2,000 extra workers.
- Enel Group, an Italian energy company operating in 33 countries, has set up a Global Task Force to coordinate and action against any local emergencies that might occur.
- IKEA Spain are filing a temporary employment regulation that will affect 83% of their workforce, resulting in their temporary layoff until they re-open.
- Kia Motors, a South Korean car manufacturer, are planning to produce personal protective equipment at their Chinese factory.
- Hulu will no longer offer 24-hour phone support, and have reduced their customer support hours.
- Netflix has temporarily suspended phone support whilst their agents work from home, instead opting to replace this with text chat.
- Nokian Tyres in Russia are ‘flexibly adjusting’ their output to line up with global demand. They have also postponed the employment of new employees in the US.
- Scandinavian Airlines System have cut their operating flights between Europe and the United States.
- Telenor, a Norwegian telecommunications company, has stated that mobile voice traffic in Norway and Denmark has risen by 50%, and mobile data use was up 25%.
- Wells Fargo is temporarily closing several branches in Florida.
Outbreak Hot Spots Europe – new confirmed cases in the last 24 hours
Angered by an increase in Chinese military drills near the island, Taiwan’s premier and the chairman of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party have both been critical of China’s response to COVID-19. They have accused the country of a ‘cover-up’ that resulted in others receiving insufficient warning, and of manipulating the WHO. China’s Taiwan Affairs Office has called the accusations ‘slander’.
Special Envoy Geir Pederson has issued a statement appealing for a nationwide ceasefire throughout the country, so that an all-out effort can be made to suppress the virus. Syrians are ‘acutely vulnerable’ to the virus in the absence of operational healthcare facilities, medical professionals and appropriate equipment.
China denies that the outbreak originated in Wuhan, calling such claims ‘immoral and irresponsible’. US officials have directly accused Beijing of mishandling the early stages of the outbreak and have implemented a messaging campaign to counter Beijing’s disinformation efforts.
Drugs, Treatments & Vaccines
The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine has been backed by Donald Trump as a ‘game changer’ in the treatment of COVID-19, although there is as yet no scientific evidence for its effectiveness over other treatments. As one of the world’s largest manufacturers of the drug, India has banned its export with exceptions for fulfilling existing contracts and for factories in special export zones.
In the UK, the RECOVERY trial will evaluate HIV drugs lopinavir and ritonavir, as well as dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory medication.
In Canada, the COLCORONA study will investigate short-term therapies for mitigating pulmonary complications and deaths in patients.
In Europe, the Discovery trial will assess four investigational therapies in at least 800 severe COVID-19 patients in France. Over 3,000 participants from eight other countries are expected to enroll in Discovery.
India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation has authorised a fixed dose combination of lopinavir and ritonavir, sold under the name Kaletra, for restricted public health use among symptomatic COVID-19 patients.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has promised that frontline doctors and nurses will soon be able to find out whether they are safe to go back to work and will not put patients or families at risk. The tests, which will be available ‘very soon’, can detect the virus in a nose swab.
Outbreak Hot Spots South Asia – new confirmed cases in the last 24 hours
Researchers at Avira discovered a malicious app named ‘Corona-Apps’ that installs the Cerberus banking trojan on a user’s device. The app is disseminated via a website with no interface and its URL is likely being used on other platforms and in other phishing attempts. Similar infections were also observed in the wild by security researcher Lukas Stefanko.
Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 issued a report detailing the different ongoing campaigns they observed in regards to COVID-19, including phishing and malware campaigns delivering remote administration tools such as NetWire, NanoCore, and LokiBot. The researchers provide examples of email subjects and file attachment names.
PhishLabs also detailed two new phishing campaigns that use coronavirus fears as a lure. The first aims to steal a user’s Microsoft Office 365 credentials by encouraging them to open a time-stamped file that is meant to contain information on a cure. The second campaign purports to be from a US biotech firm that promises information on a COVID-19 vaccine. Victims are asked to reply to the email address provided in the body of the email.
Hospitals in Spain are being targeted with coronavirus-themed phishing emails by threat actors attempting to infect healthcare systems with Netwalker ransomware. Local reports stated that the emails claim to offer ‘information on COVID-19’ and contain malicious PDF attachments.
The Better Business Bureau warns of a new campaign in which scammers are impersonating Starbucks. Emails are sent to users apologising for the store closures due to COVID-19 social distancing measures and include a virtual gift card that the user can supposedly access via a link. The company confirmed this is a fake promotion. A similar phishing campaign was also observed impersonating Lowes and Walmart.
Kaspersky researchers discovered that the Android Ginp trojan can now open a coronavirus-themed webpage on the devices of victims. The website claims to be a ‘Coronavirus Finder’ and informs the user that there are infected individuals in their area. The site prompts users to pay a small fee of less than one euro in order to see the locations of these individuals. Any credit card details that are entered by the user are exfiltrated to Ginp’s operators.
Forbes reported that coronavirus-related applications, that have not been endorsed by a national government or medical institution, are being purged from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.Forbes investigated ten of the banned apps from Google Play and found that they had been collectively downloaded over 400,000 times.
Motherboard discovered multiple compromised Twitter accounts disseminating links to a site selling masks meant to protect against COVID-19, along with toilet paper, respirators, and digital thermometers. At present, it is unclear whether this site attempts to scam individuals to take their money or whether the site actually has access to these products.
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