Threat Reports

COVID-19 Threat Digest #48, 19 May 2020

 

                                               

 

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Actions by Governments

  • Argentina’s government freezes telephony, TV and Internet rates until August 31 (Sputnik Mundo)
  • Brazil calls in doctors from Cuba to help battle COVID-19 (Deutsche Welle)
  • Brazil records third-highest Covid-19 infection level (BBC)
  • Cambodia puts off reopening schools (Cambodia Daily)
  • Chile protesters clash with police over lockdown (Radio New Zealand)
  • Colombian President Iván Duque asks “not to run” to reopen transportation as COVID-19 cases exceeds 15,000 (Expansion.com)
  • France and Germany propose a 500 billion euro European recovery plan (Seniorplanet.fr)
  • French government ordered to lift coronavirus lockdown ban on religious meetings (France 24)
  • German government wants international travel warning to expire in mid-June (Reitturniere.de)
  • Hong Kong to relax social distancing restrictions for religious groups, but other rules extended over risk from new local coronavirus cluster (South China Morning Post)
  • Hungarian government to facilitate creation of 70,000 jobs (Daily News Hungary)
  • 11 EU states agree on rules for tourism reopening (Greece News)
  • Japan gov’t OKs cash handout to struggling students amid pandemic (Mainichi JP)
  • Mexican government announces guidelines for entering the “new normal (KRDO.com)
  • Portuguese government to create programs to support migrants affected by the crisis (Jornal de Notícias)
  • North Korea further eases travel restrictions on foreigners” (Korea Broadcasting System)
  • Russian government has extended sick leave for citizens over 65 (VSESMI.ru)
  • Spain lifts ban on flights from Italy and reopens sea border as lockdown eased (Yahoo! News)
  • UAE government urges public to celebrate Eid at home (Abu Dhabi National)
  • Ukrainian government will allow metro and kindergartens to reopen from May 25 (Tass.ru)
  • UK – Michael Gove insists schools are safe to reopen (Education Executive)
  • UK government to give major freight routes £35m to boost hauliers to keep moving (Press and Journal)
  • US – CDC says no evidence coronavirus spreads through pool water (Scranton Times-Tribune)
  • US – CDC unveils new antibody study as national testing nearly doubles (MSNBC Newsweek)
  • US – HHS delivers funding to expand testing capacity for states, territories, tribes (CDC)
  • US – Donald Trump threatens to quit WHO over China links (FT.com)
  • US President Donald Trump says he is taking hydroxychloroquine to help keep him safe from coronavirus, despite public health officials warning it may be unsafe (BBC World)
  • US – Gov. Newsom eases rules on reopening in parts of California (UPI)
  • Vatican, Italy resume public church services as lockdown eases (NationalPost.com)
  • WHO’s latest Situation Report (WHO)

 

Actions by Companies

  • Airports Company South Africa warns of Covid-19 impacts and that it might need government guarantees (Engineering News)
  • AMEX CEO says most employees will work remotely for the year (AmericanBanker.com)
  • Bureau Veritas, Cleveland Clinic launch safety standard (Progressive Grocer)
  • Canara Bank in India starts gold loan business vertical (Dailyhunt)
  • Compass Group launches £2bn equity placing; pulls guidance as profit falls on Covid-19 impact (Stock Market Wire)
  • Costain boss asks workers to wear face masks on public transport (Building.co.uk)
  • Delta Airlines will increase flights to keep planes no more than 60% full until at least July (Mail Online UK)
  • Dun & Bradstreet launches Covid-19 Impact Index (Finextra)
  • Emirates mulls cutting 30,000 jobs as COVID-19 pandemic saps demand (Arirang)
  • Hochschild Mining to restart operations at Peru’s Inmaculada and Pallancata mines (Diario Gestión)
  • Kempinski reopens all hotels in China as Covid-19 lockdown recedes (TravelNews.site)
  • LA Fitness to start reopening gyms: which locations will be open? (International Business Times)
  • Microsoft and UnitedHealth Group are rolling out a coronavirus screening app to US employers (Business Insider)
  • OCBC to rejig branch strategy after Covid-19 crisis amid rising use of digital banking services: CEO (Straits Times)
  • Salesforce to implement COVID-19 health protocols when reopening offices (ABC 7 News TV)
  • Severn Trent to reopen some visitor sites in Derbyshire (Amber Valley Info)
  • Standard Chartered launches USD50m COVID-19 assistance fund (Standard Chartered)
  • Starbucks to reopen 850 outlets in Japan as coronavirus measures eased (Japan Times)
  • Thermo Fisher gets US contract for products used in COVID-19 sample collection (RTTNews.com)
  • Vale resumes operations at Malaysia iron ore terminal (MySteel.net)
  • Victoria Cedar Meats in Australia to reopen. (9News.com.au)

 

Second Wave Risk & Mitigation

  • Canada’s PPE crisis isn’t over yet, say doctors (Canadian Medical Association Journal)
  • Denmark can release restrictions on a second wave – but caution is needed in new opening phases (YLE)
  • India – PPE suit prices crash as low-grade products flood market (Times of India)
  • Ireland – flu vaccine to be made free for children, at-risk groups (Irish Central)
  • Italy prepares health system for second wave of Covid-19 (Actualites du Jour)
  • Japan – Second wave of COVID-19 cases inevitable, expert says (JapanTimes.co.jp)
  • UAE – Abu Dhabi offers more bonds to stockpile cash (Gulf Business)
  • UK – Coronavirus reveals risks to UK supply chains before brexit (Bloomberg)
  • UK – Plans need to be made now for a Covid-19 ‘second wave’ (Verdict.co.uk)
  • UK may have to live with COVID-19 for several years, says top government adviser (Head Topics UK)
  • US – Nearly all states may be undertesting for COVID-19 (USA Today)
  • US – Texas Medical Association expert expects to see second wave of COVID-19 cases (Kens5.com)
  • US – Video: What’s next with COVID-19—new normal or second wave? (Yale University/Medical Xpress)

 

Drugs, Treatments & Vaccines

AstraZeneca in talks with other governments to replicate UK vaccine deal

An AstraZeneca spokesman said that the company is in talks with governments around the world regarding production deals for a possible COVID-19 vaccine, similar to one recently agreed with the UK.

 

BAT readies human trials for its Covid-19 vaccine

The vaccine in development uses BAT’s proprietary, fast-growing tobacco plant technology.

 

Doubts over Oxford COVID-19 vaccine after animals tested catch virus

Although all of the monkeys were found to have been infected with the virus, none suffered from pneumonia, which suggests the vaccine could help fight the severity of COVID-19, which may give optimism to some.

 

J&J collaborates with Vibalogics on COVID-19 vaccine development

Global contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) Vibalogics is to manufacture additional…

 

Early data show Moderna vaccine generates immune response

In a Phase 1 trial, eight patients who received two doses of the vaccine at the lowest and middle doses tested — 25 and 100 micrograms — developed neutralizing antibodies to the virus at levels similar to people who had recovered from infection, the company said in a statement.

 

Psychiatric and neuropsychiatric presentations associated with severe coronavirus infections

If SARS-CoV-2 follows a similar course to that with SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV, most patients should recover without experiencing mental illness. SARS-CoV-2 might cause delirium in a significant proportion of patients in the acute stage. Clinicians should be aware of the possibility of depression, anxiety, fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder, and rarer neuropsychiatric syndromes in the longer term.

 

Study: Wearing surgical masks can reduce COVID-19 spread by 75%

According to a study by a team in Hong Kong, the rate at which the virus was transmitted through airborne particles or respiratory droplets was lowered by as much as 75% when masks were used. 

 

Study: COVID-19 infection creates a strong immunity against reinfection

The researchers based their conclusions after testing immune T-cell counts in 20 patients who recovered from the infection. Researcher Alessandro Sette explained that “what we see is a very robust T-cell response against the spike protein [on the virus’ outer shell], which is the target of most ongoing COVID-19 efforts, as well as other viral proteins”

 

Delirium ‘may be common’ in Covid seriously ill

Long stays in intensive care and being ventilated are thought to increase the risk, the researchers say. Doctors should look out for depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after recovery.

 

Societal and Economic Impact

S&P 500 closes at 10-week high on vaccine hopes

U.S. stocks jumped on Monday, and the S&P 500 closed at a 10-week high, on encouraging early-stage data for a potential coronavirus vaccine and on the promise of more stimulus to lift an economy beaten down by the pandemic. 

 

Florida’s COVID-19 data chief gets sidelined and researchers cry foul

The architect and manager of Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard — praised by White House officials for its accessibility — announced that she had been removed from her post, causing outcry from independent researchers now worried about government censorship.

 

South Korea PM: Vaccine must be distributed equitably to the whole world

South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaking at the World Health Assembly through a video lik said on Monday that vaccines and treatments are public goods that must be distributed equitably to the whole world.

 

Poll: Majority of US voters want country to remain closed for now

A majority of U.S. voters want the country to remain closed as long as there is still a significant number of coronavirus cases, according to a Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey.

 

Young people ‘most likely to lose work’ in lockdown

More than one in three 18 to 24-year-olds is earning less than before the outbreak, research by the Resolution Foundation claims. It said younger workers risk their pay being affected for years, while older staff may end up involuntarily retired.

 

Coronavirus is the ultimate demonstration of the real-world impact of racism

While biologically the virus may not discriminate, it is having a much worse effect on people from ethnic minorities. BAME Covid-19 deaths “track existing social determinants of health” such as overcrowding in homes, insecure work and lack of access to green spaces. In other words, the virus is hitting people harder not because it can see their race but because “racialised” people – those who are categorised by societies as, say, black or brown – are more vulnerable.

 

Coronavirus leads to food industry crisis in Europe

Half of the fishermen in the Netherlands have stopped going out to sea because the price of fresh fish has plummeted due to a lack of demand. In France, 150,000 tonnes of high quality cheese went off last week because farmers can’t sell it, and many warehouses that store fresh food across Europe are now reaching capacity.

 

Geopolitical Impact

China supports independent inquiry into virus

China’s President Xi Jinping told the World Health Assembly on Monday that the country supports a “comprehensive evaluation” of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic after it “has been brought under control,”. Xi said that China has “always had an open, transparent and responsible attitude,” and had shared information on the virus in a timely manner.

 

WHO chief resists criticism

The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has rejected criticism at the WHO Annual Meeting in Geneva, stating that the WHO “raised the alarm early,”. At the same time, he announced that he would soon have the global response to the pandemic independently investigated. 

 

Trump threatens permanent freeze on WHO funding

US President Donald Trump has threatened to permanently halt funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) if it does not commit to “substantive improvements” within 30 days, also branding the organisation a ‘puppet of China’.

 

China says US trying to shift blame and smear Beijing over WHO

China said the United States was trying to shift the blame for Washington’s own mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, responding to President Donald Trump’s letter threatening to halt funding to the World Health Organization. 

 

Cybersecurity Impact

Infostealer malware disguised as coronavirus Android app discovered

Researchers have discovered four versions of a malicious Android app called ‘Covid’ that appears to be targeting Algerian users. It is capable of stealing personal data, including SMS messages, call logs, contacts, and more. The researchers found that the malware only goes into full effect after a device reboot, likely to hide its functionality.

 

QNodeService delivered via US Department of Treasury email mentioning coronavirus

Researchers have identified an email masquerading as the US Department of Treasury, which prompts the recipient to open a document and review banking information. The message states that failure to comply will result in the funds being diverted to coronavirus disaster relief efforts. Executing the malicious attachment will install QNodeService. 

 

Spammers increasingly use COVID-19 related text-based campaigns

Researchers have observed a shift from COVID-19 related phishing and malspam campaigns to more text-based campaigns. Such campaigns do not include any malicious attachments and rely on tricking users into revealing personal information using the written content in the email.

 

US Authorities issues warning about infrastructure attacks related to 5G conspiracy

ABC News reported that they had seen two intelligence reports, one issued by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and another issued by the DHS, FBI, and National Counterterrorism Centre, that warned of attacks against 5G networks and the electrical grid, fueled by conspiracy theories that link the coronavirus pandemic to 5G technology. 

 

ProLock ransomware decryptor fails to work properly warns FBI

The FBI warned that the decryptor for ProLock ransomware is faulty. Files that are over 64MB can become corrupted during decryption, and organisations may have to conduct additional work to ensure that the decryptor runs correctly. 

 

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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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