Threat Reports

COVID-19 Threat Digest #43, 12 May 2020

 

                                     

 

Actions by Governments

  • Canadian government unveils COVID-19 support program for large businesses with strict conditions (Yahoo! Finance)
  • Chilean government seeks to approve family income aid legislation (Prensa Latina)
  • China – detained scholar Zhang Xuezhong returns home after questioning over letter criticising Chinese government’s handling of coronavirus (South China Morning Post)
  • Colombian government considers helping Avianca with a loan (El Universo)
  • French government warns no return to normal yet as lockdown eases (FT.com)
  • Djibouti government extends lockdown and border closures (OSAC.gov)
  • German government approves EUR 750m coronavirus vaccine program (RP Online)
  • Greece – British tourists could holiday in Greece without restrictions from June 1, says Greek government (Mail Online UK)
  • Hong Kong government to expand HK$80 billion wage subsidy scheme to include seniors and vulnerable (South China Morning Post)
  • Indonesia to allow citizens under 45 to resume working amid pandemic (VietnamPlus)
  • Irish government under fire over COVID-19 deaths in care homes (EuroNews)
  • Israel loosens coronavirus rules on returning travelers, reopens parks (Jerusalem Post)
  • Jamaica set to relax restrictions on churches and bars (VOA News)
  • Mexican government orders 16% tax increase on Netflix (Latin Post)
  • Russian government approved additional payments to families with children (Regnum.Ru)
  • Singapore government & BlkJ are bringing wet markets online (The Drum)
  • Spanish government and unions agree on labor support agreement (TeleSURtv.net)
  • Turkey eases coronavirus lockdown as malls, salons reopen (Al Jazeera English)
  • Ukraine will allocate almost $224 million to support the unemployed (Regnum.Ru)
  • UK government’s plan to rebuild COVID-19 recovery strategy (GOV.UK)
  • UK government change guidance on wearing face masks (London-TV.co.uk)
  • UK government considering expanding contact groups and small weddings may be allowed (Mail Online)
  • US government approves $1bn Gemini solar farm in Nevada as part of getting ‘America back to work’ (Solar Power World)
  • US to allow states to distribute Gilead’s remdesivir to fight COVID-19 (FXstreet.com)
  • US  – Director of NIAID Dr. Anthony Fauci to testify remotely (Tech Times)
  • US – NIH experts say coordinated strategy to accelerate multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates is key (NIH)
  • WHO’s latest Situation Report (WHO)

 

Actions by Companies

 

Second Wave Risk & Mitigation

  • Australia – Commodity supply chain disruption and export position (Kalkine Media)
  • Australia – Frydenberg tallies cost of second wave (Saturday Paper)
  • Australia – Widespread testing needed to avert second wave as restrictions eased (WA Today)
  • China – New wave of Coronavirus starts bothering China, but it is not Wuhan this time (IBTimes Singapore)
  • Europe fears coronavirus second wave (POLITICO)
  • France – Anti-Covid brigades, facing the challenge of tracing second wave coronavirus (Nouvel Observateur)
  • France – Paris Stock Exchange cautious, worried about a second wave of infections (Investir.lesechos.fr)
  • Iran closes southwest county after new wave of coronavirus cases (The New Arab)
  • Ireland – Insights learned so far to help prevent second wave of the virus here (Irish Independent)
  • South Korea’s stockpiles of major strategic items have nearly doubled since Japan’s export controls (Hani.co.kr)
  • South Korea’s new coronavirus cases show the perils of reopening (VOX.com)
  • Sweden bets higher immunity levels will limit second wave of COVID-19 (Axios.com)
  • US – Citing supply chain concerns, Senator Gary Peters urges Administration to secure medical supplies needed to distribute and administer coronavirus vaccine (U.S. Senator Gary Peters)
  • US – Fauci and Birx’s public withdrawal worries health experts (POLITICO)
  • US risking a second wave and a depression, Moody’s economist warns (CNBC)
  • US – Supply chains still recovering from coronavirus (UPS Knowledge Center)
  • WHO urges for ‘extreme vigilance’ in end of lockdown as concerns over second wave of coronavirus COVID-19 rise (UN News)
  • World – Oil falls on fears of coronavirus second wave (Reuters)

 

Drugs, Treatments & Vaccines

Study: More men die from COVID-19 because of key enzyme

The higher presence of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) found in the heart, kidneys, in tissues lining blood vessels, and in particularly high levels in the testes, could explain why more men die from COVID-19.

 

Study: Nearly everyone who recovers from coronavirus develops antibodies within weeks

Researchers from Chongqing Medical University in China discovered that the majority of patients appear to have the specially designed proteins in their blood which the body makes as a way to fight the infection – showing they have been infected with Covid-19.

 

Researchers use live virus to identify 30 existing drugs that could treat Covid-19

Scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, the University of Hong Kong, Scripps Research, UC San Diego School of Medicine, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and UCLA have identified 30 existing drugs that stop the replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

 

Japan expects to launch clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccine in July

Multiple institutions in the country are working on a potential vaccine, including the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, University of Tokyo and Osaka University.

 

Hundreds to take part in Covid-19 clinical trials at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals

The Research & Innovation team at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, which operates Royal Preston and Chorley hospitals, has recruitment figures of more than 675 for the project aimed at tackling the deadly virus.

 

Lilly & Junshi Biosciences to co-develop antibody therapies for COVID-19

Junshi Biosciences and Eli Lilly have entered into an agreement to co-develop therapeutic antibodies for the potential prevention and treatment of COVID-19.

 

COVID-19 testing and patients in mental health facilities

People residing in psychiatric treatment facilities are at high risk for coronavirus disease 2019. Given the absence of a vaccine or treatment, prevention is the primary guard against adverse events, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome and death. However, prevention requires keeping infected and uninfected patients apart as much as possible.

 

Coagulation abnormalities and thrombosis in patients with COVID-19

Although most patients with COVID-19 predominantly have a respiratory tract infection, a proportion of patients progress to a more severe and systemic disease, characterised by treatment-resistant pyrexia, acute lung injury with acute respiratory distress syndrome, shock, and multiple organ dysfunction, associated with substantial mortality.

 

Relief Therapeutics announces filing of investigational new drug for clinical trial

Study to enroll 144 patients with COVID-19-associated non-acute lung injury in an attempt to decrease progression to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and need for ICU care.

 

Researchers offer insights into immunotherapy as treatment

A global research team has stressed that immunotherapy, such as convalescent plasma, intravenous immunoglobulin, and human monoclonal antibodies, may be vital in combating Covid-19.

 

Sindh reports successful use of passive immunisation therapy

Dr. Shamsi shared that the patient was administered plasma on 30th April and had wholly recovered on 8th May. The second test for coronavirus that was conducted on the patient came back negative.

 

Health workers test preventative drug in clinical trial

Frontline healthcare workers in Tampa are participating in a clinical trial to see if hydroxychloroquine, an FDA-approved drug commonly used to treat malaria, can be used to prevent the virus.

 

Societal and Economic Impact

Physical distance may not be possible on UK public transport

People who use public transport may not be able to practise physical distancing effectively, the UK government has admitted. The Department for Transport has conceded that ‘there will be times and some settings on public transport where social distancing is not possible’.

 

UK to extend furlough scheme

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce an extension to the furlough scheme under which the Government subsidises the wages of workers temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus. At least 6.3 million people are currently having up to 80% of their salaries paid by the taxpayer under the furlough system at a cost of some £8 billion.

 

Wisconsin infected attended large gathering

Seventy-two individuals who tested positive for Covid-19 in Wisconsin recently attended a ‘large-gathering’ before their diagnosis, according to a report. The information comes to light after last month hundreds of people in Wisconsin attended a mass protest at the governor’s stay-at-home order. It is not possible to say if any of these cases trace back to the rally as the health department is not tracking attendance of specific events.

 

Hong Kong enforcing pandemic restrictions on protesters but not bars

While police have largely left packed bars and many restaurants alone, they have aggressively enforced a coronavirus-related restriction on gatherings of more than eight people, arresting more than 200 on Sunday alone.

 

Majority of Americans disapprove of protests against pandemic lockdown

A new survey finds that 55% of Americans disapprove of the protests that have popped up in some states as some begin chafing at public health measures that have decimated the global economy. Thirty-one percent approve of the demonstrations. 

 

Russian medical students decry ‘forced labour’ in COVID-19 wards

Aspiring medics have protested against the decision to send students in their fourth, fifth and sixth years – who can be as young as 21 – to complete their medical training in coronavirus clinics. The Russian Ministry of Health announced on April 27 that the measure would go into effect starting May 1, and only students with “medical contraindications” can refuse.

 

China says it’s too early to relax lockdown measures

China’s health authority said on Tuesday that the reappearance of local clusters of coronavirus cases in recent days suggests that counter-epidemic measures cannot be relaxed yet. 

 

Mexican border town sanitises US visitors in tunnels

The border city’s mayor has told Mexican news outlets that a majority of the people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in Nogales, Sonora, had recently returned from the US. Visitors, who must leave their vehicles, are sprayed with a biodegradable disinfectant. 

 

Geopolitical Impact

WHO calls for vigilance as countries exit lockdown

The World Health Organization has hailed dwindling COVID-19 infection rates and deaths in some countries, but called for ‘extreme vigilance’ as nations begin to exit lockdown. Swathes of Europe began the long process of reopening from coronavirus lockdowns on Monday.

 

New Zealand continues to support Taiwan’s entry to WHO

New Zealand’s foreign minister said the country has to stand up for itself after China warned its backing of Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Organization could damage bilateral ties. China has asked the Pacific country to “stop making wrong statements”.

 

Oxfam says pandemic ceasefire efforts are ‘catastrophic failure’

The international community’s attempts to forge a global ceasefire to help curb the spread of the coronavirus have come to nothing, said the organisation in a new report. The problem was compounded by a diplomatic failure at the United Nations Security Council, years of weak investment in peace-building efforts and arms continuing to flow into conflict zones.

 

Eight top candidates for vaccine according to WHO

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a UN Economic and Social Council video briefing the original thinking two months ago was that it may take 12 to 18 months for a vaccine. However, an accelerated effort is underway, helped by 7.4 billion euros (£6.4 billion) pledged a week ago by leaders from 40 countries, organisations and banks for research, treatment and testing.

 

UNICEF doubles COVID-19 appeal

United Nations children’s agency UNICEF appealed on Monday for $1.6 billion (£1.3 billion), more than doubling its initial request for money two months ago to help children already suffering through humanitarian crises and now hit with the coronavirus pandemic. UNICEF said it has so far received $215 million since late March. 

 

Pandemic may push more asylum seekers to EU

The lockdown has so far reduced the number of asylum seekers able to reach Europe, but the pandemic could lead to a bigger wave in future if it brings turmoil to the Middle East and North Africa, the European Union’s asylum agency said. 

 

UN calls for release of Palestinian children

The UN has called on Israel to release imprisoned Palestinian minors, warning that children in detention ‘face heightened risk of contracting the COVID-19’. Three UN officials based in the region, including the Unicef special representative for Palestine, Genevieve Boutin, said 194 Palestinian minors were in Israeli detention by the end of March. 

 

WHO says COVID-19 service disruptions could cause extra HIV deaths

A modelling group convened by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS has estimated that if efforts are not made to mitigate and overcome interruptions in health services and supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, a six-month disruption of antiretroviral therapy could lead to more than 500,000 extra deaths from AIDS-related illnesses, including from tuberculosis, in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020–2021.

 

Cybersecurity Impact

Ave Maria RAT re-emerges in coronavirus-themed spam campaign

IBM researchers observed a low-quality spam campaign attempting to spread Ave Maria, also known as Warzone RAT, via an email containing an attachment referencing a COVID-19 SMS template. The malware appears to only execute on Windows 7.

 

Researchers investigate coronavirus-themed malware in cloud environments

Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 identified over 300 coronavirus-themed malware samples communicating with 20 IP addresses and domain IOCs. Between March 1st and April 7th, 2020, the 20 suspicious domains made a total of 453,074 unique network connections across 27 unique cloud environments. It was unclear if these 27 organisations were compromised with coronavirus-themed malware.

 

Infostealers used in many COVID-19 themed campaigns

Lastline researchers detected a range of different malware used in a variety of coronavirus-themed attacks and found all of them to be a type of infostealer. The detected infostealers include Lokibot, Agent Tesla, Hawkeye, 404 Keylogger, and more.

 

New version of Lampion trojan targets Portuguese speaking users

Seguranca Informatica researchers observed a new version of Lampion trojan being distributed via emails containing fake invoices of bank transactions, fake invoices from Vodafone, or supposed emergency funds from the Portuguese government to aid in the fight against coronavirus.

 

Hacker develops script to use against Ohio’s coronavirus employee fraud site

The anonymous hacker released code that allows individuals to submit junk data to the Ohio state’s ‘Covid 19 Fraud’ site. The scheme is intended to allow employers to report employees who refuse to work due to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. Reported employees may become ineligible for unemployment benefits. The script, which has been circulated on social media, is intended to overwhelm the site, and make it harder for submissions to be investigated.

 

Twitter add new measures to combat coronavirus information

Twitter have updated their guidelines on combating coronavirus information by affixing warning messages and labels to Tweets that are judged as misleading or that contain disputed coronavirus information. Full details of the new guidelines are available via Twitter.

 

 

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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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