COVID-19 Threat Digest #44, 13 May 2020
Actions by Governments
- Australia creates new deputy chief medical officer position amid coronavirus mental health fears (Head Topics Australia)
- Australian government introduces legislation to assist small businesses to get paid on time (MarketScreener.com)
- Austrian-German border to fully reopen in a month, Austria says (NationalPost.com)
- Chile asks the IMF for a flexible credit line of $ 23.8 billion (Agenda de la empresa)
- Denmark takes part in global study to investigate the mental health in 60 countries due to the pandemic (Borsen)
- Brazilian government rules out making permanent emergency aid to low-income groups (XINHUA Português)
- Portuguese government and social partners meet on Friday to evaluate measures (Diario de Noticias Madeira)
- Japan wants domestic travel restraints observed even after eased emergency (Japan Times)
- Mexico to let auto plants to restart as Covid-19 toll rises (Bloomberg)
- Norway to spend record $41bn from oil wealth fund to boost economy (Bloomberg-Quint)
- Qatar joins hands with four countries in fight against COVID-19, launches global forum (Qatar Living)
- Russian government introduces bill to expand police powers due to coronavirus (Politika Segodnya)
- Saudi Arabia to enforce round-the-clock virus curfew at end of Ramadan (Today Online)
- UAE unveils two-phase strategy to reopen economy, backed by $79bn stimulus plans (Arabian Business)
- UK government sets out plans to restart housing market (Reuters)
- UK Treasury ‘considering tax rises and public sector wage freezes’ to pay £300bn coronavirus bill, leaked document shows (PoliticsHome)
- US government pegs financial assistance to Nigeria at $32.8m (AllAfrica.com)
- US – LA County likely to extend stay-home orders for another 3 months (Long Beach Press-Telegram)
- US Senate leader says will only consider narrow coronavirus bill (Reuters)
- US Senate threatens sanctions on China over Covid-19 accounting (Straits Times)
- US – Team Trump pushes CDC to revise down its COVID death counts (Daily Beast)
- WHO’s latest Situation Report (WHO)
Actions by Companies
- Amazon says delivery speed returning to normal after Covid crush (Bloomberg)
- Apple plans to return more staff to offices in restart (Mac Daily News)
- Boeing receives zero new orders and 108 plane order cancellations in April (Mail Online)
- Carlsberg pours in RM3.5m to help 1,000 coffee shop operators affected by Covid-19 (Malay Mail)
- Deutsche Bank resumes staff cuts as bosses forgo one month’s pay (Bloomberg)
- Eskom intensifies efforts to distribute free basic electricity to indigent households in South Africa (IOL)
- Gilead signs pact with generic drugmakers in India to expand supply of experimental drug remdesivir (DNA India)
- Google Meet is now available to all for free (Dailyhunt)
- MGM Resorts releases health, safety plan for reopening (Yahoo! News)
- Lundbeck boosted by stockpiling, launches key drug remotely (Reuters)
- Maersk warns global container demand to shrink this year (Reuters)
- Altria Inc – Marlboros haven’t bounced back after coronavirus stockpiling (Bloomberg)
- Nokian Tyres restarts construction of new testing center in Spain (IHS Markit)
- Rosneft CEO asks Putin for government support due to the ‘dramatic state’ of the oil market (Meduza)
- Ryanair says flyers need permission to use toilet (Stuff.co.nz)
- Sembcorp Marine reduces workforce by over 19,000 (Splash 247)
- Telefónica expands its return to offices protocol to its subsidiaries in Hispam and Brazil (Zona Movilidad)
- Tesla gets OK from Alameda Co. health officials on reopening with some stipulations (KTVU)
- Thermo Fisher Scientific SARS-CoV-2 test gets expanded FDA emergency use authorization (GenomeWeb)
- TUI Group to cut 8,000 jobs due to coronavirus impact (Sky News)
- Universal Studios Orlando to partially reopen on May 14 (Hollywood Reporter)
- Valmet restarts automotive manufacturing (AutomobilNews.eu)
- Vodafone to reopen offices and retail stores in New Zealand (Telecompaper)
Second Wave Risk & Mitigation
- Australia could run out of rice by the end of year due to stockpiling (Mail Online UK)
- Chile – Eastern Santiago suffers second wave of coronavirus infections (Cambio 21)
- China – as the country reopens, tech firms find supply-chain disruptions continue elsewhere (South China Morning Post)
- China plans to test all 11M Wuhan residents due to second wave scare (Benzinga.com)
- Danish health chief says second wave ‘very unlikely’ as advised distance halved (Sputnik) and (DR.dk)
- Egypt builds wheat stockpile to battle virus (Feed and Grain)
- France – should we fear a second wave that could come from Africa? (Sputnik France)
- Germany’s coronavirus reproduction rate dips below critical threshold (Reuters)
- US – combining different models, new coronavirus projection shows 110,000 deaths by June 6 (NPR)
- US – Connecticut’s stockpile of PPE grows (The Connecticut Mirror)
- US – Leading epidemiologist Dr Michael Osterholm Q&A: ‘We’re just in the second inning of a nine-inning game’ (USATODAY.com)
- US – Fauci warns in Senate hearing of ‘really serious’ risks if states open before COVID-19 cases fall. (Dallas Morning News)
- US – What can the US learn from Sweden’s coronavirus response? (Portland Press Herald)
- World – Cybersecurity threats to the food supply chain (Security Week)
- World – Lessons from Italy on public-private healthcare procurement (World Economic Forum)
- World – Why global value chains remain essential for COVID-19 supplies (World Bank)
Drugs, Treatments & Vaccines
The collection of blood samples to be used for antibody tests for the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has begun in Iceland.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) levels are higher in men than women as the enzyme is regulated in men in the testes, so that could explain its higher concentrations in males. ACE2 binds to the coronavirus and allows it to enter and infect healthy cells.
China’s CanSino Biologics Inc is collaborating with Canada’s National Research Council to “pave the way” for future trials in Canada, the research council said on Tuesday.
The study aims to understand how a person’s DNA affects their susceptibility to the infection. DNA samples from up to 20,000 Covid-19 patients currently or previously in intensive care units will be collected, along with 15,000 more from patients who had mild or moderate symptoms.
They have released new documents that will make the process for submitting applications for initiate studies for new biological products and drugs more efficient. They will also outline recommendations for ways to design clinical trials to evaluate safety and the effectiveness of COVID-19 treatments.
The deal is “royalty-free” until WHO says the Covid-19 outbreak is no longer a global health crisis or “until a pharmaceutical product other than remdesivir or a vaccine is approved to treat or prevent Covid-19.”.
A large study of more than 1,400 COVID-19 patients has revealed the controversial coronavirus treatment hydroxychloroquine yielded no benefits for the people involved in the research.
The Phase 2 studies will include around 600 healthy volunteers, half of whom are 18-55 years old and half of whom are over 55 years old. They will be randomly assigned to receive either placebo or one of two doses of Moderna’s experimental vaccine.
“The odds that every program works are really low, obviously, but I really hope we have three, four, five vaccines, because no manufacturer can make enough doses for the planet,” Bancel said.
Two of the tested nanoviricides drug candidates were highly effective in cell culture assays against multiple coronaviruses that infect humans.
According to the research published in the journal Nature Medicine, the new enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, tested in 16 patients, can be used to detect the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2.
The collaboration will develop three new potential vaccines to protect against COVID-19 based on the horsepox vector platform, but designed to express different SARS-CoV-2 antigens than TNX-1800, which is designed to express SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told a US Senate panel Tuesday that children may be included in clinical trials to determine if an experimental COVID-19 vaccine is effective.
YUMAB announced that it has identified fully human monoclonal antibodies with neutralizing activity against SARS-CoV2.
Societal and Economic Impact
Among the more than a dozen states that have lifted or have imminent plans to lift their stay-at-home orders, several have seen a bump in new cases, without any clear rubric for rolling back openings if they fall short of the criteria within 14 days of their reopenings.
Several people were killed during violent protests against coronavirus restrictions in the West African nation of Guinea, the country’s Interior Ministry said. Rioters set fire to several police and gendarmerie stations as well as to police vehicles in protest against the coronavirus measures.
New coronavirus hotspots are emerging in Republican heartland communities across multiple states, contradicting Donald Trump’s claims that infection rates are declining across the nation. Trump’s claim is also contradicted by data used by the White House’s own pandemic taskforce to track new and emerging hotspots.
A mass gathering has been planned at Wollaton Park and Forest Recreation Ground over the weekend in protest against the coronavirus lockdown. Officers from Nottinghamshire Police will be in attendance and will act if anyone decides to break the social distance guidelines.
Since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March, a cycling boom has been underway across the US. The National Association of City Transport Officials says they are seeing an ‘explosion in cycling’ in many American cities.
Most state and territory governments say they are not using the Covid-19 tests brought to Australia by the billionaire Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest at a $200m cost to taxpayers. The federal health department has told Guardian Australia the tests bought by Forrest have been added to a strategic reserve.
The first-quarter net profit, below analyst estimates, was hurt by lower crude oil prices as coronavirus slashed demand. ‘Looking ahead to the remainder of 2020, we expect the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on global energy demand and oil prices to weigh on our earnings,’ Aramco’s CEO Amin Nasser said in a statement.
Twitter has told staff that they can work from home ‘forever’ if they wish as the company looks towards the future after the coronavirus pandemic. The social media giant said its work-from-home measures during the lockdown had been a success, but it would allow workers to return to the office, if they choose, when it reopens.
Sales decreased by 19.1% year on year in April, according to the British Retail Consortium-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor. The drop in revenue for the four-week period between 5 April and 2 May represented the sharpest monthly decline since the BRC began monitoring sales activity in January 1995.
The government appointed Queensland Investment Corporation to facilitate the bid, which could take the form of a loan, a guarantee or a direct equity stake. The board has appointed Deloitte as voluntary administrators.
Food waste generated by UK restaurants dishing up takeaways during the lockdown has risen as a result of consumers’ ‘unpredictable ordering patterns’. However, despite these erratic patterns, consumers appear to be wasting less than they usually would in their own homes, a report found.
Workers at Cedar Meats say they were not given face masks until six days after the first case in the outbreak was identified. In the weeks since, the outbreak has increased to 88 cases. Worksafe confirmed it was investigating the spread of Covid-19 at the site.
A report by the Australian parliamentary committee states that ‘community confidence in 5G has been shaken by extensive misinformation preying on the fears of the public spread via the internet, and presented as facts, particularly through social media.’
In a televised address Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the measures would support farmers and small businesses. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is due to announce further details in the next few days.
Falling electricity use and competition from renewables had weakened the demand for fossil fuels even before the coronavirus hit, according to analysis by the environmental website, Carbon Brief. However, it was the sudden nationwide lockdown in March that finally tipped the country’s 37-year emissions growth trend into reverse.
Following China’s threats of a consumer boycott of Australian beef and wine, the country has announced plans to effectively end imports of Australian barley, with an 80 per cent tariff and banned beef imports from four Australian abattoirs. The National Farmers’ Federation said in a statement that it was concerned about the trade disruptions.
Eurozone lenders could take a sizable hit from the coronavirus outbreak as an economic slowdown puts strain on borrowers, European officials have told the bloc’s governments in a recent report. In the assessment circulated in April, officials at the European Commission conclude there is ‘a risk to the financial stability of the euro area’.
A recently launched EU-funded mobile application records users’ breathing and coughing to diagnose cases of COVID-19, scientists involved in the project have said. It will collect demographic and medical information from users, in addition to ‘spoken voice samples, breathing and coughing samples through the phone’s microphone.’
Germany and Estonia submitted Tuesday a resolution to the UN Security Council on a ceasefire in various conflicts around the world during the coronavirus pandemic, to replace one drafted by France and Tunisia that the United States has blocked.
The European Union’s executive Commission is to propose a gradual lifting of borders in an attempt to kick-start a tourist industry hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. “Our message is we will have a tourist season this summer,” said economic affairs commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, ‘even if it’s with security measures and limitations.’
EU countries should avoid slashing defence spending under pressure from the economic fallout of the coronavirus, the EU’s chief diplomat Joseph Borrell said on Tuesday, warning that the COVID-19 crisis could spark unforeseen security challenges.
Income tax, value-added tax and sales levy cuts will be reversed if Kenya agrees with the International Monetary Fund to reinstate the higher taxes. The fund says the cuts will cost the Kenya Revenue Authority and compromise the State’s ability to deal with emergencies and spending on development projects like roads, power plants and water infrastructure.
Researchers have observed new phishing campaigns impersonating the WHO and United Nations in an attempt to steal credentials, trick users into sending cryptocurrency and deliver malware, such as AgentTesla.
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