Threat Reports

COVID-19 Threat Digest #13, 31 March 2020

Actions by Governments

  • Australia announced a new $130 billion support package to support workers and those out of work. In total, Australia’s measures now amount to $213.6 billion in direct spending from the federal government, $11.8 billion from states and territories, and $105 billion in lending from the Reserve Bank and federal government.
  • Australian government is working with the private health sector to secure 30,000 hospital beds, and 105,000 nurses and staff to battle the pandemic.
  • Austria will make wearing basic face masks compulsory while shopping for groceries.
  • Brazil is considering an emergency loan package for energy distributors struggling with lower energy use and lost revenues due to the outbreak.
  • Czech Republic extended its lockdown measures until April 11th. The closure of non-essential business and movement restrictions were set to end on April 1st.
  • Hungary’s government has been granted special powers to rule by decree. The new law does not specify a time limit.  
  • India dismissed claims that its financial year will be extended. The financial year will begin as normal on April 1st.
  • Israel announced a $22.3 billion economic package to help the economy during the outbreak.
  • Italy has extended its lockdown until at least April 12th. The lockdown was due to end this Friday.
  • Mexico declared a state of emergency after the country’s total number of cases reached 1,094.
  • Portugal temporarily granted migrants and asylum-seekers full citizenship rights during the outbreak, providing them with access to the country’s healthcare services.
  • Russian government has been granted emergency powers, allowing it to introduce high alert or emergency regimes throughout the country, as well as to establish mandatory rules of conduct.  
  • UK government announced a £75 million airlift plan to fly back British citizens stranded abroad due to the pandemic. The plan consists of charter flights to ‘priority countries’ and affordable seats on commercial airlines.
  • UK government changed regulations relating to abortion pills, allowing women to take them at home without having to travel to a clinic. The temporary measure will be permitted for women who have been pregnant up to 10 weeks.   
  • UK will provide food vouchers worth £15 per week per child for children who are eligible for free school meals in England.
  • US government is relaxing numerous hospital safety standards in order to expand services to fight the pandemic. For example, changes are made to what is considered a hospital bed, the extent of supervision of medical staff, and what health care can be provided at home.
  • US made available nearly $247 million to provide resources to 64 of the world’s most at-risk countries. Nearly $100 million will be provided in emergency health assistance, $110 million in new international disaster assistance and $64 million in humanitarian assistance for the UNHCR.
  • US Marines’ deployment to Darwin, Australia, has been cancelled.
  • US Navy Hospital Ship Comfort has arrived in New York City to help relieve local hospitals by providing treatment to those not affected by the virus.   
  • Vietnam will begin 15 days of social distancing in an attempt to tackle the outbreak.

 

COVID-19 Hot Spots – US & Canada in the last 24 hours

 

Actions by Companies

  • Airbus has ceased all production at their factory in Getafe, Spain.
  • Alstom SA have manufactured face shields and valves for respirators for hospitals in Barcelona, in collaboration with 3D printing initiatives.
  • American Airlines have requested $12bn in financial support from the US government.
  • Anglo American have declared force majeure on some non-essential supplier contracts, due to the nationwide lockdown in South Africa.
  • British Airways have suspended all their flights to and from Gatwick.
  • Cigna and Humana are waiving some customer cost-sharing and customer co-payments.
  • DSV, a Danish transport firm, is transporting PPE from China to Estonia.
  • Ford, in cooperation with General Electric, have announced the production of 50,000 ventilators in 100 days. They will then be able to produce 30,000 a month.
  • Harmony Gold have ceased operations at all nine of their gold mines.
  • Iberdrola, a Spanish electric utilities company, have donated €22.1million worth of medical equipment and supplies.
  • Isuzu Motors India has delayed a product launch to the second quarter of the 2021 fiscal year.
  • Latam Airlines Group have suspended all their international routes.
  • LEGO have donated $50million to help combat the pandemic.
  • LG Electronics have pledged 1 million meals to those affected by the lockdown in India.
  • Macy’s, Kohl’s and Gap in the US are furloughing most of their employees due to temporary store closures.
  • Mattel are prototyping and producing personal protective equipment such as face shields and masks.
  • Netcare, a private hospital group in South Africa, are providing healthcare services to COVID-19 patients on a non-profit basis.
  • Novatek are resuming their transshipment of liquified natural gas, via Kildin Island in the Murmansk Region of Russia.
  • Renault are resuming production in a factory in Wuhan, China, and a factory in South Korea.
  • Smiths Group PLC are producing 10,000 ventilators for the NHS on behalf of the UK government.
  • Standard Chartered have announced $1billion of financing for companies that provide goods and services to help against the pandemic. They also withdrew their 2020 financial guidance, due to uncertainties caused by current events.
  • Tegna Inc, an American broadcaster, have claimed that talks of their acquisition have ended due to the pandemic.
  • Under Armour are producing half a million surgical masks for the University of Maryland Medical system.
  • Unilever have pledged €500million to support businesses in its supply chain.

 

Drugs, Treatments & Vaccines

Medtronic ventilator design specifications released for free

Medtronic have released the design specifications, service manuals and more, for their Puritan Bennett 560 free-of-charge. This allows other companies to explore production and help meet ventilator demand.

 

US government in vaccine production negotiations

Johnson & Johnson and Moderna Inc have made deals with the US government regarding mass production of a coronavirus vaccine, and they are currently in talks with at least two more companies.

J&J announced the $1billion deal, which will give them capacity to produce over one billion doses of vaccine. Moderna has signed a deal with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

 

Societal & Economic Impact

UK police warned against overreaching during lockdown

The National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing are creating new guidelines to remind officers that they cannot stop people from exercising or driving, nor restrict what can be sold by ‘essential’ shops.

 

Italian politicians warn of civil unrest amid lockdown

Standoffs between supermarket staff and shoppers took place in Palermo and Catania in Sicily, as people refused to pay for food because they had received no wages. Amid calls for looting on social media, armed police were sent to Palermo’s three largest supermarkets.

 

US expels illegal border-crossers to mexico every 96 minutes

Under emergency coronavirus measures, the US Border Patrol takes an average of 96 minutes to send migrants to Mexico if they cross the border illegally. Migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras are processed ‘in the field’ and not given medical examinations, allowing them to be sent back to the border quickly, according to an anonymous source within the agency.

 

European People’s Party (EPP) encourages Brexit extension

The centre-right EPP, which includes the parties of Angela Merkel and Leo Varadkar, has called on the UK to extend the Brexit transition period beyond the end of the year, noting that this is ‘the responsible thing to do’. The official end to the transition period is 31 December 2020.

 

Jobless claims in Canada accelerate

Jobless claims now represent close to 8% of the labour force, as the pandemic continues to force businesses to close. In response, the Canadian government has expanded its subsidy program to cover 75% of wages for companies experiencing at least a 30% drop in revenue.

 

European homeless go hungry under pandemic

Social workers across Europe have warned of an unfolding crisis among the homeless, who are at higher risk of illness and are struggling to find food and accomodation. A shortage of protective equipment has also impinged on the ability of social workers to provide aid.

 

European cardboard shortage looms

The Recycling Association is concerned about a possible cardboard shortage across Europe, and possibly worldwide, as local authorities are forced to suspend recycling collections. There has been a surge in household rubbish due to lockdowns, resulting in fibre going to landfill or being incinerated, and fibre is also no longer coming from major non-essential retailers that have been forced to close.

 

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.

 

Geopolitical Impact

Colombia’s ELN rebels calls ceasefire

The left-wing National Liberation Army (ELN) has declared a ceasefire for the month starting April 1st as a ‘humanitarian gesture’ to the Colombian people during the ongoing pandemic. The group says they were inspired by the appeal for a global ceasefire made by UN Secretary General António Guterres on 23 March.

 

Asia epidemic ‘far from over’ says WHO official

Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, stated that every country should keep preparing for large-scale transmission as a long-term battle against coronavirus is expected. Although the focus of the epidemic is now on Europe, WHO technical advisor Matthew Griffith expects this to shift to other regions.

 

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs questions virus origins

FP have published an article stating that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is attempting to deflect blame for the pandemic from China, and redirect it anywhere else, even by leveraging misinformation and doubt in the party’s own narrative. They also state that whilst it appears that officials in the MFA appear to be stating mixed messages, they are careful not to contradict each other.

 

Coronavirus fallout threatens EU – ECFR 

The European Council on Foreign Relations has published an article about the future of the European Union after the current pandemic, stating that while they will face the same geopolitical problems as before, the EU may come out of the situation a less credible, and more divided force. 

 

Cybersecurity Impact

Attackers target users of Canadian banks with coronavirus-themed SMS attacks

Researchers at Phishlabs identified two related SMS phishing attacks targeting customers of major Canadian banks. The first attack tells the user that their debit card has been locked due to the spreading of coronavirus. The second attack informs the user that they are receiving compensation via the ‘emergency response benefit of Canada’. The recipient is directed to a site where they are encouraged to select their bank and divulge account information.

 

Malware samples delivered via multiple coronavirus-themed delivery notices 

Kaspersky researchers came across multiple email campaigns citing coronavirus-related delivery issues, such as delayed delivery, rush orders or referencing workflow disruptions due to the pandemic. The attachments in such emails contain different malware, such as Noon Trojan and NanoBot. 

 

Coronavirus-themed attack spoofs UK government site

Researchers at Trend Micro spotted a website that spoofs a UK government site offering coronavirus relief. Users are prompted to enter their postcode and their banking information. They also discovered a fake PayPal URL that appears to target UK customers via a website address that contains ‘coronavirussupport’ in its name.

 

 

Although Silobreaker has relied on what it regards as reliable sources while compiling the content herein, Silobreaker cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness, integrity or quality of such content and no responsibility is accepted by Silobreaker in respect of such content. Readers must determine for themselves what reliance they should place on the compiled content herein.

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