COVID-19 pandemic updates

Last Updated: Thursday, 21 May 2020 07:46

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

Market Report: Planning The Return To The Office: Fortress AS has published a new report to coincide with Business Continuity Awareness Week. It aims to help organizations consider all the physical & policy, psychological, and technical 'return to work/ the office' options. It is based on a survey of 100 business continuity, risk and resilience professionals. More details.

An antibody first identified in a blood sample from a patient who recovered from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003 inhibits related coronaviruses, including the cause of COVID-19. The antibody, called S309, is now on a fast-track development and testing path at Vir Biotechnology in the next step toward possible clinical trials. Laboratory research findings on the S309 antibody are reported in the May 18 edition of Nature. The title of the paper is: ‘Cross-neutralization of SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV2 by a human monoclonal antibody’. More details.

The 73rd World Health Assembly is taking place this week and will focus on the COVID-19 pandemic. Member States will deliver statements, report their progress in fighting the coronavirus, share knowledge on the evolving situation and consider a draft resolution on COVID-19. Watch the proceedings.

Together with partners, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has launched 'COVID-19 recovery guidelines for buildings - China practice', which curates China's experience in reopening properties after COVID-19 closures and the associated responsibilities of the building profession. Collating good practices of private and public sectors with inputs from global professional body, the guidebook provides practical guidelines on precaution measures over reopening of buildings: including risk assessment, three-tier contingency plan formulation, building retry precautions, operation resumption procedure, safety and protection measures over disinfection and epidemic prevention, public space management, facilities and equipment management, waste management, human-centred value added services provision, as well as communications and client care. The guidebook is available here.

ClearView, Assurance and Avalution have jointly authored a new guide for organizations that are making plans for restarting operations after COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. The guide covers: Guidelines for evaluating your current situation; How to conduct an After-Action Review (AAR); An Action Item Checklist for the six critical areas of focus. Obtain the document.

WHO has published an overview of 'Cleaning and Disinfection of Environmental Surfaces' to help with COVID-19 control. This states that "Like other coronaviruses, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is an enveloped virus with an outer lipid envelope, which makes it more susceptible to disinfectants compared to nonenveloped viruses..." The guidance explains what disinfectant measures are most effective and how they should be applied. More details (PDF).

WHO has published an annex to the guidance on considerations on adjusting public health and social measures (PHSM). The new annex provides 'a pragmatic decision process to help countries through adapting PHSM based on epidemiological and public health criteria'. More details.

Temperature and latitude do not appear to be associated with the spread of COVID-19, according to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, but school closures and other public health measures are having a positive effect.
The study looked at 144 geopolitical areas.They found little or no association between latitude or temperature with epidemic growth of COVID-19 and a weak association between humidity and reduced transmission. The results - that hotter weather had no effect on the pandemic's progression - surprised the authors. More details.

Scientists in Europe recently evaluated the frontline capabilities of a commercially available, 15-minute disposable antigen test to detect COVID-19 infections. Their findings, reported in Frontiers in Medicine, suggest the test could be useful as part of a broader triage strategy for slowing down the virus.The test was able to detect COVID-19 infections in about six out of 10 people, and it was nearly perfect in determining when an infection was not present. More details.

ISO has published a new website resource which lists the national resources developed by ISO members to support the fight against COVID-19. Go there.

Many non-financial companies in the Netherlands fear for their survival in case of a protracted COVID-19 crisis. Nearly half of all entrepreneurs in the non-financial private sector expect their livelihood to be at risk if the crisis lasts more than six months. If the crisis should last longer than twelve months, 60 percent expect bankruptcy of their company in its present form. More details.

Researchers from the American Association for the Advancement of Science have announced that a new potential COVID-19 vaccine, PiCoVacc, is ready to be explored in clinical trials in humans. The inactivated vaccine candidate has been shown to be effective in laboratory tests, inducing antibodies that neutralized several different SARS-CoV-2 strains. More details.

The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, has warned that reducing social distancing measures “too soon could accelerate the spread of the virus and open the door for a dramatic upsurge or for spread to adjacent areas”. She also warned about an imminent surge in COVID-19 cases in Haiti, saying: “We are especially worried about Haiti and I wish to sound the alarm of an impending humanitarian crisis.” Dr. Etienne described the situation as “a perfect storm approaching.” More details.

Researchers at Utrecht University, Erasmus Medical Center and Harbour BioMed (HBM) have reported that they have identified a fully human monoclonal antibody that prevents the SARS-CoV-2 virus from infecting cultured cells. The discovery, published in Nature Communications, is an initial step towards developing a fully human antibody to treat or prevent COVID-19.

"This discovery provides a strong foundation for additional research to characterize this antibody and begin development as a potential COVID-19 treatment," said Frank Grosveld, PhD, co-lead author on the study. "The antibody used in this work is 'fully human,' allowing development to proceed more rapidly and reducing the potential for immune-related side effects." More details.

During the middle and late phases of the SARS epidemic, SARS-CoV accumulated mutations that attenuated the virus. Scientists believe that a weakened virus that causes less severe disease may have a selective advantage if it is able to spread efficiently through populations by people who are infected unknowingly. Now researchers at the Arizona State University have found the first sign that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2, may follow a similar path. More details.

South Korean researchers have discovered that two existing FDA-approved drugs show promise against COVID-19. The research is published in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology. An anti-helminthic drug called niclosamide demonstrated 'very potent' antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2, and ciclesonide, an inhaled corticosteroid used to treat asthma and allergic rhinitis, also showed effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2. More details.

A Gartner survey of 99 CFOs and finance leaders shows that 42 percent of CFOs are not incorporating a second wave outbreak of COVID-19 into the financial scenarios they are building for the remainder of 2020. Additional survey data showed that that only 8 percent of CFOs have a second wave factored into all their planning scenarios, and only 22 percent have a second wave factored into their ‘most likely’ scenario. More details.

During the UK Government's daily briefing on 30th April the Prime Minister confirmed that the UK has passed the peak of COVID-19 infections and committed to releasing a comprehensive plan at some point next week for emerging from lockdown.

Forrester predicts that due to COVID-19, global retail sales in 2020 will decline by an average of 9.6 percent globally, a loss of $2.1 trillion. Forrester also predicts that it will take four years for retailers to overtake pre-pandemic levels. More details.

UK and Irish business groups urge Government cooperation to address COVID-19 crisis: in a joint letter to the Taoiseach and Northern Ireland’s First and Deputy First Minister, the CBI and Ibec have urged co-operation and co-ordination across the UK and Ireland to provide the best chance of protecting public health and restoring people’s prosperity. Welcoming policymakers’ efforts to deal with the pandemic, the CBI and Ibec believe it is now in everyone’s interests to have experts on both sides of the island of Ireland regularly communicating on their respective plans for economic revival and recovery, including for all-island business and cross border employment. More details.

An international clinical trial, co-led by UKRI’s Medical Research Council and UCL, which is testing the effectiveness of the drug remdesivir on patients hospitalised with Covid-19, has shown “very promising” preliminary results. More details.

To answer many urgent questions about the characteristics of people who are most severely affected by the virus and what happens to them in hospital, a study – called ‘ISARIC4C’ – has analysed data obtained from 16,749 COVID-19 hospital patients in the UK. The median age was 72 years, the median duration of symptoms before admission was 4 days, and the median duration of hospital stay was 7 days. Increased age and comorbidities including obesity were associated with a higher probability of mortality. Overall, 49 percent of patients were discharged alive, 33 percent died and 17 percent continued to receive care at date of reporting. More details.

In a joint statement, the Chair of the Council of Europe’s data protection 'Convention 108' committee, Alessandra Pierucci, and the Council of Europe’s Data Protection Commissioner, Jean-Philippe Walter, warn about the possible side effects of digital contact tracing applications in the prevention of the COVID-19 pandemic and call for adequate safeguards to be put in place to prevent risks to personal data and privacy. Read the statement.

The US National Governors Association (NGA) and Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) has released a roadmap to help support governors developing plans for a phased reopening of economic activities that protects the public’s health while laying a strong foundation for long-term economic recovery. More details.

In a media briefing the WHO Director-General has expressed concern about increasing infection trends in parts of the world. "As lockdowns in Europe ease with declining numbers of new cases, we continue to urge countries to find, isolate, test and treat all cases of COVID-19 and trace every contact, to ensure these declining trends continue," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "But the pandemic is far from over. WHO continues to be concerned about the increasing trends in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and some Asian countries. As in all regions, cases and deaths are underreported in many countries in these regions because of low testing capacity." Read the briefing.

In a new study in Frontiers in Microbiology experts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have reviewed possible strategies against dangerous coronaviruses. The authors conclude that in terms of COVID-19 the 'most attractive alternative until a vaccine is produced, is gene therapy delivered through the adeno-associated virus (AAV). This would entail the fast, targeted delivery of antibodies, immunoadhesins, antiviral peptides, and immunomodulators to the upper airways, to give short-term protection'. The risks of toxicity are minimal say the authors and they estimate that such tools can be developed, adapted, and tested within a month. More details.

The Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) has launched a GOARN COVID-19 Knowledge hub. The hub is designed as a central repository of quality public health information, guidance, tools and webinars. Go there.

The German Center for Infection Research has reported on human trials of a MERS coronavirus vaccine which shows promise as a successful vaccine. The next step will be to use the same viral vector (MVA) which is the basis of the vaccine into which they will insert a SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to replace the MERS-CoV spike protein. Trials will then take place to test the efficacy of the reengineered vaccine against COVID-19 development. More details.

Public Health and COVID-19: From Response to Recovery: in a new paper, which has been accepted for the Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal, Dr. Jim James proposes some solutions which could minimize the socio-economic devastation of COVID-19 and, at the same time, optimize the medical response. A risk management localised approach should be taken rather than national level lockdowns, with risk-based interventions adjusted as appropriate to allow for the reopening of businesses and institutions in communities where it is safe and feasible. Read the paper here (PDF) or at

Transportation of cargo is still regarded as an essential activity by governments around the world despite current lockdown restrictions. However, many companies are having to shut down operations and are unable to handle cargo because of the COVID-19 pandemic. News of such closures may not always reach transportation providers for goods in transit until after arrival at the intended destination, which brings increasing risks for owners and handlers of high-value and perishable and temperature-sensitive goods, according to the risk consultants of Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS). In a new publication, Coronavirus: Loss Prevention Measures For Cargo Storage And Transportation, AGCS experts highlight a number of practices for beneficial cargo owners to consider when developing contingency plans, focusing on two areas in particular: risks for cargo storage and risks for goods in transit. Read the publication (PDF).

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology have developed a sensor that can quickly and reliably detect SARS-CoV-2 – the COVID-19 coronavirus. Most laboratories use a molecular method called reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR for short, to detect viruses in respiratory infections. This is well established and can detect even tiny amount of viruses - but at the same time it can be time consuming and prone to error. The Swiss team has developed an alternative test method in the form of an optical biosensor. More details.

RIMS, the risk management society, has sent a letter to the US Department of the Treasury, Congress and the Office of US President Donald J. Trump requesting the creation of a pandemic risk insurance program to accelerate economic recovery. The full letter can be found here (PDF).

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have developed TrackCOVID, a free, open-source smartphone application that permits contact tracing for potential coronavirus infections while preserving privacy. More details.

WHO has published an update to its 'Strategic preparedness and response plan' for tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. The document 'translates what we have learned so far about the virus intostrategic action' says WHO. More details.

A group of scientists, physicians, funders and manufacturers from around the world have pledged to collaborate, in coordination with WHO, to help speed up the availability of a vaccine against COVID-19. More details

Scientists at the University of Alberta have shown that the drug remdesivir is highly effective in stopping the replication mechanism of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, according to new research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The paper demonstrates how remdesivir, developed in 2014 to fight the Ebola epidemic, works in detail and says that remdesivir can be classified as a ‘direct-acting antiviral’ against SARS-CoV-2. This reinforces the promise of clinical trials for remdesivir in COVID-19 patients, which are already underway around the world. More details

German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina has published a new paper which looks at pre-requisites for countries starting to try to normalise communities following COVID-19 lockdowns. ‘Coronavirus Pandemic – Measures Relevant to Health’ says that three measures are particularly important: general use of mouth and nose protection; short-term use of mobile phone data; and increase in testing capacities. Read the paper

AA20-099A: COVID-19 Exploited by Malicious Cyber Actors: this is a joint alert from the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). The alert provides information on exploitation by cyber criminal and advanced persistent threat (APT) groups of the current COVID-19 pandemic. It includes a non-exhaustive list of indicators of compromise (IOCs) for detection as well as mitigation advice. More details

WHO has published a guideline on food safety, ‘COVID-19 and Food Safety: Guidance for Food Businesses’. More details

BSI has announced that it is providing open access to the COVID-19 section of its Supply Chain Risk Exposure Evaluation Network (SCREEN) tool. SCREEN is a web-based, comprehensive global supply chain intelligence system available by subscription, which includes valuable information for companies to anticipate, quickly respond to, and avoid supply chain disruptions. To view the SCREEN COVID-19 intelligence, visit:

Successful MERS vaccine in mice may hold promise for COVID-19 vaccine: researchers at the University of Iowa and the University of Georgia have developed a vaccine that fully protects mice against a lethal dose of MERS, a close cousin of the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine uses a harmless virus to deliver a MERS coronavirus protein into cells to generate an immune response, and may hold promise for developing vaccines against other coronaviruses diseases, including COVID-19. More details

Link between air pollution and COVID-19 mortality in Italy could be possible: an environmental researcher from Aarhus University has studied whether there could be a link between the high mortality rate seen in northern Italy, and the level of air pollution in the same region. In an article entitled ‘Can Atmospheric pollution be considered as a co-factor in the extremely high level of SARS-CoV-2 lethality in Northern Italy?’, a probable correlation between air pollution and mortality in two of the worst affected regions in northern Italy: Lombardy and Emilia Romagna is demonstrated. More details

PAHO has launched a new searchable database that contains the latest guidance and research on the COVID-19 pandemic from the Americas and affected countries worldwide. More details

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