The latest business continuity news from around the world

This Continuity Central resource section is being regularly updated with situational updates, news, resources, and business continuity information related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Situational updates

The WHO Information Network for Epidemics (EPI-WIN)
EPI-WIN gives access to timely, accurate, and easy-to-understand advice and information from trusted sources on public health events and outbreaks.

Recent news

Researchers identify promising new compounds to potentially treat COVID-19: Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and School of Pharmacy (UMSOP) have discovered new drug compounds to potentially treat the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The compounds disrupt the functioning of a protein complex inside human cells that the researchers discovered is critical for the replication and survival of coronaviruses. This finding could lead to the development of new broad-spectrum antiviral drugs that target viruses such as influenza, Ebola and coronaviruses, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal. More details.

A new saliva-based test developed by a team at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has been found to accurately detect the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from small samples of saliva, according to a study led by Bloomberg School researchers. Such tests, the results of which can be obtained in a matter of hours, are seen as potential alternatives to blood-sample antibody tests for research and clinical use. The test is based on multiple fragments, or ‘antigens’, from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, mostly from its outer spike and nucleocapsid proteins. In the study, the researchers found that their test detected antibodies to several of these antigens in saliva samples from all 24 participants who had confirmed SARS-CoV-2 exposure and whose symptoms had begun more than two weeks prior to the test. The test also reliably yielded negative results for saliva samples that had been collected from people prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study appears online in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

Researchers at the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness (ACDP) have found that SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, can survive for up to 28 days on common surfaces including banknotes, glass - such as that found on mobile phone screens - and stainless steel. The research found that SARS-CoV-2 survived longer at lower temperatures than anticipated and tended to survive longer on non-porous or smooth surfaces such as glass, stainless steel and vinyl, compared to porous complex surfaces such as cotton. More details.

Experimental vaccine that boosts antigen production shows promise against COVID-19: a bioengineering technique to boost production of specific proteins could be the basis of an effective vaccine against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, new research suggests. Scientists manipulated a natural cellular process to ramp up levels of two proteins used by the virus to infect other cells, packaged the protein-boosting instructions in nanoparticles and injected them into mice. Within a month, the mice had developed antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The technique involves altering specific sequences of messenger RNA, molecules that translate genetic information into functional proteins. While these sequences are not translated to proteins, the researchers changed their structures to promote higher-than-usual levels of proteins. The sequences are known as untranslated regions, or UTRs. More details.

University of Hong Kong researchers have reported the case of a healthy man in his 30s who is the first known case of a COVID-19 reinfection. The man contracted a second and 'clearly different' strain of the disease four and a half months after his first infection. More details.

University of Sydney researchers have confirmed that there is evidence of an association between lower humidity and an increase in community transmission of COVID-19. Lower humidity can be defined as ‘dryer air’ and a new study estimates that for a 1 percent decrease in relative humidity, COVID-19 cases might increase by 7-8 percent. The estimate is about a 2-fold increase in COVID-19 notifications for a 10 percent drop in relative humidity. The increase in infection rates is thought to be because when the air is drier aerosols become smaller, allowing them to remain suspended in the air for longer. More details.

WHO has replaced its daily COVID-19 situational updates with a weekly Epidemiological Update. This provides a summary of regional trends as well as country data. Read the first of these here (PDF).

The WHO Regional Office for Europe is convening a Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development. The Commission will draw lessons on how different countries’ health systems have responded to the pandemic and will make recommendations on investments and reforms to improve the resilience of health and social care systems. More details.

The lack of variation in the SARS-COV-2 virus is good news for researchers who are working on the development of a viable vaccine say the authors of a new study. The virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic presents at least six strains, but despite its mutations, the virus shows little variability. Common influenza has a variability rate that is more than double. Researchers at the University of Bologna drew from the analysis of 48,635 coronavirus genomes, which were isolated by researchers in labs all over the world. It was then possible for researchers to map the spread and the mutations of the virus during its journey to all continents. "The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is presumably already optimized to affect human beings, and this explains its low evolutionary change", explains Federico Giorgi, a researcher at Unibo and coordinator of the study. "This means that the treatments we are developing, including a vaccine, might be effective against all the virus strains". More details.

A team of scientists has engineered antiviral compounds that can kill several types of coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The compounds neutralized viruses in human airway cells and improved survival in mice infected with a deadly, closely related virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). The new compounds' broad activity suggest that they should be further developed as treatments for infections with emerging coronaviruses, which currently have few effective antivirals and no approved vaccines. In previous work the researchers had developed a series of antiviral compounds named 3C-like protease inhibitors, which target an enzyme essential to the replication of coronaviruses. In their latest work they tested several 3C-like protease inhibitors in cells infected with SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, or MERS-CoV. One of the compounds, named 6e, showed strong activity against SARS-CoV-2 and inhibited viral replication by tenfold in cultured human airway epithelial cells taken from infected donors. Another potent compound named 6j boosted the odds of survival in mice infected with MERS-CoV, slashed the amount of virus in the lungs, and prevented dangerous complications. More details.

Could prior exposure to common cold viruses affect the severity of SARS-CoV-2 symptoms? A study led by Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics (MPIMG) shows that some healthy individuals possess immune cells capable of recognizing the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. The reason for this might be found in prior infections with 'common cold' coronaviruses. Whether or not this cross-reactivity has a protective effect on the clinical course in individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 will now be addressed by the 'Charité Corona Cross' study. More details.

Yale School of Medicine and the biopharmaceutical firm AI Therapeutics have launched a multi-institutional clinical trial of a drug for treating COVID-19. Known as LAM-002A (apilimod), the drug has a proven safety record. Preliminary research has shown it can block cellular entry and trafficking of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the cause of COVID-19.The Yale Center for Clinical Investigation is now enrolling patients in a Phase II trial for the drug's use as a COVID-19 treatment. The study is expected to enroll 142 newly diagnosed patients to test the safety and efficacy of the drug in reducing virus levels in infected individuals. More details.

Approximately one third of people in the Americas are at increased risk of developing severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying health conditions says WHO... more details.

Nitric oxide treatment could be pivotal in the world's fight against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to a review from the George Washington University (GW). Nitric oxide is an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory molecule with key roles in pulmonary vascular function in the context of viral infections and other pulmonary diseases. In SARS-CoV-1 infection, which led to the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003, nitric oxide inhibited viral replication by cytotoxic reactions through intermediates such as peroxynitrite. It is one of several potential COVID-19 treatments included in the US Food and Drug Administration's emergency expanded access program. Read more in 'Harnessing nitric oxide for preventing, limiting, and treating the severe pulmonary consequences of COVID-19'.

Early stage human trials of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine have found it produces strong immune response and shows no early safety concerns, according to results published in The Lancet. The University of Oxford is working with the UK-based global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for the further development, large-scale manufacture and potential distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. More details.

75 countries have submitted expressions of interest to protect their populations and those of other nations through joining the COVAX Facility, a mechanism designed to guarantee rapid, fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. More details.

Brits, Americans and other English speakers are some of the least likely to wear face masks and social distance to combat the spread of COVID-19, according to new research from Durham University Business School. The only native speakers, researched by the academics, less likely to follow health precautions are German speakers. The research was conducted by Sascha Kraus, Professor of Entrepreneurship at Durham University Business School, alongside an international team of academics. The researchers wanted to understand the predictors of COVID-19 voluntary compliance behaviours, and which native speakers were most likely to follow these. The researchers found that Italian and French speakers were most likely to follow their own government’s guidelines and recommendations, whilst Spanish and English speakers were much less likely to stick to the rules.

In a retrospective study, investigators from New York University Langone Health found that the quantity of SARS-CoV-2 (viral load) collected from patients in emergency departments is significantly higher in patients with fewer or milder symptoms who did not require hospitalization- the opposite of what might be expected. Investigators found that the initial viral load was significantly lower in patients who required hospitalization compared to those who were discharged. The association remained significant even after adjustment for age, sex, race, body mass index, and other existing medical conditions. They also found that a higher viral load was associated with shorter duration of symptoms in all patients and was not associated with disease severity. Read the study paper (PDF).

A team led by scientists at Scripps Research has discovered a common molecular feature found in many of the human antibodies that neutralize SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The scientists reviewed data on nearly 300 anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies that their labs and others have found in convalescent COVID-19 patients over the past few months. They noted that a subset of these antibodies is particularly powerful at neutralizing the virus- and these potent antibodies are all encoded, in part, by the same antibody gene, IGHV3-53. The results therefore offer hope that using a vaccine to boost levels of these ever-present antibodies will protect adequately against the virus.
More details.

WHO has updated its risk assessment tools for mass and religious gatherings, and mass gatherings during sports events to guide authorities, planners, and event organizers during the current pandemic.

Researchers from the University of Houston, in collaboration with others, have designed a ‘catch and kill’ air filter that can trap the virus responsible for COVID-19, killing it instantly. The researchers reported that virus tests at the Galveston National Laboratory found 99.8 percent of the novel SARS-CoV-2 was killed in a single pass through a filter made from commercially available nickel foam heated to 200 degrees Centigrade. "This filter could be useful in airports and in airplanes, in office buildings, schools and cruise ships to stop the spread of COVID-19," said Ren, MD Anderson Chair Professor of Physics at UH and co-corresponding author for the paper. More details.

Sweden's controversial decision not to lock down during COVID-19 has been analyzed by the University of Virginia Health System. The approach produced more deaths and greater healthcare demand than seen in countries with earlier, more stringent interventions, but Sweden fared better than would be expected from its public-health mandates alone, roughly similar to France, Italy and Spain - countries that had more stringent measures but adopted them after the pandemic took hold there. More details.

Compounds halt SARS-CoV-2 replication by targeting key viral enzyme: four promising antiviral drug candidates have been identified and analyzed by a University of Arizona-University of South Florida team in a preclinical study. One of the drugs, Boceprevir, is already FDA approved for the treatment of Hepatitis C, which would speed up the approval for COVID-19 treatment. The most effective drug identified was GC-376, an investigational veterinary drug for a deadly strain of coronavirus in cats. More details.

Asthma does not appear to increase the risk for a person contracting COVID-19 or influence its severity, according to a team of Rutgers researchers. More details.

A new paper in the Journal 'Cell' describes how a new, more infectious, variant of the SARS-CoV-2 emerged in February in Europe and rapidly spread around the world. It is now by far the most prevalent variant of the COVID-19-causing virus in circulation. The paper also confirms that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has a low mutation rate overall, much lower than the viruses that cause influenza and HIV-AIDS. More details.

The findings of a nationwide survey assessing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the emotional wellbeing of US adults show that 90 percent of survey respondents reported experiencing emotional distress related to the pandemic. The results indicate that there could be an emerging mental health crisis which needs addressing. More details.

Researchers have completed a new study of how well a variety of natural and synthetic fabrics filter particles of a similar size to the virus that causes COVID-19. Of the 32 cloth materials tested, three of the five most effective at blocking particles were 100 percent cotton. More details.

Whole-town study shows that more than 40 percent of COVID-19 infections had no symptoms...New research from the University of Padova and Imperial College London confirms that asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic people are an important factor in the transmission of COVID-19. More details.

The WHO 28th June sitrep reports a record number of new COVID-19 cases (189,077) in the previous 24 hours globally, with several countries reporting their highest number of new cases in a 24-hour period. The infection curve is starting to look worryingly like it is showing exponential growth. More details.

An American Chemical Society paper explains how a different approach to treating COVID-19 is a possibility using Cellular Nanosponges: these are nanosponges coated with human cell membranes, the natural targets of the virus, as a decoy to lure SARS-CoV-2 away from cells to prevent infections. More details.

WHO has welcomed the initial clinical trial results from the UK that show dexamethasone, a corticosteroid, can be lifesaving for patients who are critically ill with COVID-19. For patients on ventilators, the treatment was shown to reduce mortality by about one third, and for patients requiring only oxygen, mortality was cut by about one fifth, according to preliminary findings shared with WHO. More details.

Clinical researchers will begin human trials of a new COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine developed by researchers at Imperial College London. The trials will be the first test of a new self-amplifying RNA technology, which "has the potential to revolutionise vaccine development and enable scientists to respond more quickly to emerging diseases" according to the UK Government. The vaccine has undergone rigorous pre-clinical safety tests and has been shown to be safe and produced encouraging signs of an effective immune response in animal studies. Over the coming weeks, 300 healthy participants will receive two doses of the vaccine. More details.

Researchers at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have built an online tool that could help decrease the concentration of aerosols containing the novel coronavirus in hospitals and other spaces such as offices, retail stores and residences, potentially reducing the likelihood of building occupants becoming infected. The Fate and Transport of Indoor Microbiological Aerosols (FaTIMA) tool considers factors including ventilation, filtration and aerosol properties to estimate the concentration of aerosols a person might encounter in a room. Using the new tool, building managers and engineers can evaluate their options for reducing occupant exposure to the novel coronavirus. More details.

Naphthalene, an organic compound derived from the distillation of coal tar and best known for its use in moth balls, may be an effective inhibitor of the COVID-19 coronavirus. A team of researchers at the University of Georgia has successfully demonstrated that a set of drug-like naphthalene-based small molecules have been shown to be effective at halting SARS-CoV-2 PLpro activity, as well as replication. PLpro is known to be essential in other coronaviruses for both replication and the ability to suppress host immune function. More details.

An international team of researchers led by McMaster University has found that while higher heat and humidity can slow the spread of COVID-19, longer hours of sunlight are associated with a higher incidence of the disease, in a sign that sunny days can tempt more people out even if this means a higher risk of infection. The findings, published online in the journal Geographical Analysis, inform the widespread scientific debate over how seasonal changes, specifically warmer weather, might shape the spread of COVID-19. More details.

Population-wide use of facemasks keeps the COVID-19 coronavirus 'reproduction number' under 1.0, and prevents further waves of the virus when combined with lockdowns, a modelling study from the universities of Cambridge and Greenwich suggests. The research suggests that lockdowns alone will not stop the resurgence of SARS-CoV-2, and that even homemade masks with limited effectiveness can dramatically reduce transmission rates if worn by enough people, regardless of whether they show symptoms. More details.

In a paper for the Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal, The Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health has asked whether the COVID-19 pandemic is being handled in the right way and whether herd resistance needs to be revisited as a viable strategy. Read the paper (PDF).

COVID-19 could be a seasonal illness say University of Sydney researchers: reduced humidity linked to increased COVID-19 risk. A study conducted in Sydney has found an association between lower humidity and an increase in locally acquired positive cases. Researchers discovered a 1 percent decrease in humidity could increase the number of COVID-19 cases by 6 percent. The research led by Professor Michael Ward, an epidemiologist in the Sydney School of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney, and two researchers from our partner institution Fudan University School of Public Health in Shanghai, China, is the first peer-reviewed study of a relationship between climate and COVID-19 in the southern hemisphere. "COVID-19 is likely to be a seasonal disease that recurs in periods of lower humidity. We need to be thinking if it's winter time, it could be COVID-19 time," said Professor Ward. More details.

The first academic review of all available evidence, including 172 observational studies looking at how physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection affect the spread of COVID-19, SARS, and MERS in both community and healthcare settings across 16 countries, has confirmed that physical distancing of at least 1 metre lowers risk of COVID-19 transmission, but distances of 2 metres could be more effective. Face coverings and masks might protect both healthcare workers and the general public against infection with COVID-19, and protective eye covering may also provide additional benefit--although the certainty of the evidence is low for both forms of protection. Importantly, even when properly used and combined, none of these interventions offers complete protection and other basic protective measures (such as hand hygiene) are essential to reduce transmission. More details.

Employers across the UK could face legal action from employees who return to work and contract the COVID-19 virus, a leading health and safety expert has warned. Professor Andrew Watterson, of the University of Stirling, believes further evidence and clarity is required on exactly how the 'test, trace and isolate' approach will protect workers - especially when untested workers may be asymptomatic - and he also reemphasised the 'critical' importance of the use of appropriate personal protective equipment and two-metre social distancing. More details.

Rheumatologists at the University of Alberta are flagging similarities between the deaths of some COVID-19 patients and those with rheumatic illnesses, and are testing proven rheumatic treatments to see whether they help against the pandemic virus. More details.

Two anti-inflammatory drugs found that inhibit the replication of SARS-CoV-2: the URV's Cheminformatics and Nutrition research group has carried out a computational screening to predict whether there is a medicine authorised for treating another pathology that can inhibit the main protease of the virus (M-pro). This is key to the whole process because this enzyme plays an essential role in the replication of the virus. The study demonstrates that a human and a veterinary anti-inflammatory drug - Carprofen and Celecoxib - inhibit a key enzyme in the replication and transcription of the virus responsible for COVID-19. More details.

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