Tag: wave

 

Building wave of ransomware attacks strike U.S. hospitals

By Christopher Bing and Joseph Menn

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Eastern European criminals are targeting dozens of U.S. hospitals with ransomware, and federal officials on Wednesday urged healthcare facilities to beef up preparations rapidly in case they are next.

The FBI is investigating the recent attacks, which include incidents in Oregon, California and New York made public just this week, according to three cybersecurity consultants familiar with the matter.

A doctor at one hospital told Reuters that the facility was functioning on paper after an attack and unable to transfer patients because the nearest alternative was an hour away. The doctor declined to be named because staff were not authorized to speak with reporters.

“We can still watch vitals and getting imaging done, but all results are being communicated via paper only,” the doctor said. Staff could see historic records but not update those files.

Experts said the likely group behind the attacks was known as Wizard Spider or UNC 1878. They warned that such attacks can disrupt hospital operations and lead to loss of life.

The attacks prompted a teleconference call on Wednesday led by FBI and Homeland Security officials for hospital administrators and cybersecurity experts.

A participant told Reuters that government officials warned hospitals to make sure their backup systems were in order, disconnect systems from the internet where possible, and avoid using personal email accounts.

The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“This appears to have been a coordinated attack designed to disrupt hospitals specifically all around the country,” said Allan Liska, a threat intelligence analyst with U.S. cybersecurity firm Recorded Future.

“While multiple ransomware attacks against healthcare providers each week have been commonplace, this is the first time we have seen six hospitals targeted in the same day by the same ransomware actor.”

In the past, ransomware infections at hospitals have downed patient record-keeping databases, which critically store up-to-date medical information, affecting hospitals’ ability to provide healthcare.

Ransomware attacks have jumped 50% over the past three months, security firm Check Point said Wednesday, with the proportion of polled healthcare organizations impacted jumping to 4% in the third quarter from 2.3% in the previous quarter.

Two of the three consultants familiar with the attacks said the cyber criminals were commonly using a type of ransomware known as “Ryuk,” which locks up a victim’s computer until a payment is received.

The teleconference call participant said government officials disclosed that the attackers used Ryuk and another trojan, known as Trickbot, against the hospitals.

“UNC1878 is one of the most brazen, heartless, and disruptive threat actors I’ve observed over my career,” said Charles Carmakal, senior vice president for U.S. cyber incident response firm Mandiant.

“Multiple hospitals have already been significantly impacted by Ryuk ransomware and their networks have been taken offline.”

Experts say the deployment of Trickbot is significant after efforts by Microsoft <MSFT.O> to disrupt the hacking network earlier this month.

That initiative was designed to handicap the cyber criminals, but they seem

‘Overwhelming’ COVID second wave floods Swiss hospitals

By Cecile Mantovani

GENEVA (Reuters) – Swiss hospitals are scrambling to cope with a surge in new COVID-19 patients, bringing back retired staff to replace sick frontline workers and closing other wards as officials warn they could reach breaking point in about 10 days.

Case numbers in Switzerland have risen to record levels this month, with infection rates far exceeding those in neighbours Germany and Italy.

The government is expected to announce new measures on Wednesday but has been criticised by medics and scientists for being too reluctant to impose strict nationwide rules.

At Geneva’s University Hospital (HUG), in one of the worst-hit cantons, cases have increased more than six-fold in three weeks to 350 patients.

“Everyone expected a second wave, but no one to my knowledge expected it to be so wild and so severe,” director Bertrand Levrat told Reuters.

“Today, this wave is going to be probably bigger, maybe much bigger than the first wave,” he said, describing a strained situation with exhausted medics and more than 400 COVID infections among staff.

To cope, his facility is cutting elective surgeries, moving patients to private clinics and has called on retired workers even though they would be in the age bracket more vulnerable to the virus.

Nationally, about a third of intensive care units remain available but will be filled in the next ten days if the current infection rate persists, government delegate for the Coordinated Medical Services Andreas Stettbacher said on Tuesday.

Similar warnings were issued earlier this year during the first outbreak, but then hospitals, propped up by army reservists, largely coped and many had spare capacity.

The situation is different this time around, doctors say.

Marie Assouline Reinmann, a doctor at HUG, is concerned that complacency and scepticism about restrictions could lead to a spike in the number of infections.

“I fear that people take the situation less seriously and that it gets worse and worse here at the hospital,” she said.

“I would like people to realize that this second wave is here and it is already overwhelming us.”

Confirmed cases in Switzerland and neighbouring Liechtenstein have surpassed 127,000, with a death toll above 1,900.

(Additional reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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India Near 8 Million Cases; Europe Wave Resurgence: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — India’s confirmed cases reached just under 8 million as virus infections spread across the country. Europe’s resurgent coronavirus outbreak intensified, with Italy’s new cases reaching a record and France reporting the most deaths since April as stricter measures are weighed on the continent.

Japan passes a bill to offer a free vaccine. In a rare admission, U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledged that coronavirus cases are rising in “certain areas” of the Midwest. Covid-19 hospitalizations have risen at least 10% in the past week in 32 states and the nation’s capital as the month-old viral surge increasingly weighs on America’s health-care system.

Pfizer Inc. CEO Albert Bourla said the company may know by the end of October whether its vaccine is effective. Russia has begun production of a second vaccine that hasn’t completed trials.

Key Developments:

Global Tracker: Cases top 43.9 million; deaths exceed 1.16 millionEast Europe fights for its life against virus it thought crushedCity locked down for three months has bleak lesson for the worldCan you get Covid twice? What reinfection cases mean: QuickTakeSlow Covid recovery stalks health industry as new cases surgeEuropean governments running out of options to avoid lockdownsVaccine Tracker: Vaccine trials restart, providing hope

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click CVID on the terminal for global data on coronavirus cases and deaths.



chart, histogram: Seven-day average of U.S. death toll is at 800 again


© Bloomberg
Seven-day average of U.S. death toll is at 800 again

India Virus Cases Reach Almost 8 Million (12:22 p.m. HK)

India’s total confirmed virus cases reached 7.99 million on Wednesday, according to government data. The nation added 43,893 cases in a day. Coronavirus-related deaths rose to 120,010.

India trails only the U.S. as the nation with the most number of cases. The U.S. has 8.77 million cases, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

Iran’s Parliament Speaker Tests Positive (11.26 a.m. HK)

Iranian parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf has tested positive for coronavirus and is currently in self-isolation, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Earlier this month, IRNA reported the country’s nuclear energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi as well as Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, a deputy president and top aide to President Hassan Rouhani, had also tested positive for the virus.

Trump Says Midwest ‘Heated Up’ With Cases (10:41 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump on Tuesday night acknowledged that coronavirus cases are rising in “certain areas” of the Midwest, a rare admission during the final week of the presidential campaign.

“Certain areas that are heated up right now,” Trump said at a rally in Omaha, Nebraska. “They’ll go down. They’ll go down very quickly. They’ll be down within two weeks, they’re figuring.”

Trump has routinely downplayed the virus while making his closing argument to voters, who have rated his pandemic response poorly, according to opinion polls. The president said again on Tuesday that the country is “turning that corner.”

South Korea’s Moon Says Virus Contained, Seeks to Revive Economy (9:34 a.m. HK)

Video: Health panel proposes colon cancer tests start

Britain’s Health Workers Face 2nd Virus Wave, but This Time With Less Support

People have also begun complaining about long wait times.

“There is some disbelief that you’ve had six months to prepare for this and why haven’t you been training more nurses,” said Dr. Tamás Szakmany, an intensive care doctor in Newport, Wales. But, he said, “it’s not just like you’ve got a car factory and you suddenly need more transmissions, so you train the factory workers to build more transmissions. It’s just not that simple.”

Among doctors and nurses, a sense of battle fatigue has set in. Extra weekend shifts that were intended to be temporary have lasted through the summer, especially in northern cities where coronavirus wards remained busy even as a national lockdown was lifted in the summer. Health workers are calling in sick, many of them with anxiety and depression.

Rapid testing remains scarce for doctors and nurses. And health workers on coronavirus wards are supplied only with basic surgical masks, not the heavier-duty N-95 masks reserved for intensive care units.

“The first time around, it’s almost like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of medical challenge,” said Paul Whitaker, a respiratory doctor in Bradford, in northern England, where the number of coronavirus patients has returned to its early May peak.

“The hospital provided packed lunches for us all,” Dr. Whitaker added. “People were sending good luck messages. But the prospect of going into another six months, which is almost certainly what it’s going to be, is relatively frightening. How are you going to maintain the morale, the focus and the energy of all these people?”

In the ex-mining and manufacturing towns in England’s north that have been hit hardest by the latest surge of infections, doctors are especially harried. Nearly 40 percent of critically ill patients are now classified as the country’s most deprived, compared to a quarter of such patients in the spring and early summer.

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Europe’s Second Wave of COVID-19 is Being Driven by Two Countries. Here’s Why

covid prague
covid prague

Employees of Czech hospital beds maker Linet check beds to be used in the Covid-19 field hospital on October 20, 2020 in the Linet factory in the village Zelevcice, 30km south-east of Prague. Credit – Michal Cizep/AFP—Getty Images

Europe is clearly in the grip of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. In the past week, countries throughout Europe—including Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, the U.K, and Ukraine—have all recorded their highest daily caseloads since the pandemic started.

But two of these stand out. As of Oct. 25, Belgium and the Czech Republic are currently reporting about 146 and 115 new daily cases per 100,000 people, respectively, according to TIME’s coronavirus tracker, which compiles data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s dramatically higher than the E.U. average of 33 per 100,000.

The Czech Republic hit a new daily record of 15,258 new infections on Oct. 23; a day later, Belgium set its own record with 17,709 new daily cases. Belgium is now the epicenter of the E.U’s second wave, with the continent’s highest per-capita case rate (besides tiny Andorra). The country also has the world’s third highest number of COVID-19-related deaths per capita after Peru and tiny San Marino.

Experts speaking to TIME say they can’t point to anything specific that has made the Czech Republic or Belgium unique among E.U. states in their handling of the pandemic, instead attributing the rise in cases to a combination of factors, and the relatively arbitrary nature by which a virus spreads through populations.

Increased testing doesn’t fully explain the rise in case numbers

Marc Van Ranst, a virologist from the University of Leuven in Belgium, says the rise in cases can be partly explained by the increase in testing in his country. The number of daily tests has increased from about two out per 1,000 people each day in September to nearly six in recent days.

Testing has also increased in the Czech Republic over the same period, from about one per 1,000 people to around 3.5.

However, that cannot entirely account for the overall rise in cases, because the positivity rate—the share of tests that come back positive—rose in Belgium from around 2% in mid-September to over 18% in late October.

In the Czech Republic, that number soared from around 4% in to nearly 30% in the same period.

Population density may be a factor

Another potential factor for the situations in Belgium and the Czech Republic is their relatively high population densities. “You have to look at Belgium as one big city,” says Ranst. “That’s why in Brussels, where the population density is particularly high, the problem is acute.” For every square kilometer of land in Belgium there are 377 people; in the Czech Republic that number is 137. Compare those to the E.U. average of 112.

Pierre Van Damme, an epidemiologist in Belgium, said the reopening of universities at the end of September, in particular, has been a driver of

How Melbourne’s long lockdown crushed a second wave



a bus on a city street: Melbourne residents have endured one of the world's longest lockdowns


© Getty Images
Melbourne residents have endured one of the world’s longest lockdowns

Melbourne’s grinding second coronavirus lockdown began in the chill of winter.

In early July, the nights were long and dark, and Australia’s cultural capital was confronting the terrifying reality of another deadly wave of infections.

More than 110 days later, experts say it is emerging as a world leader in disease suppression alongside places including Singapore, Vietnam, South Korea, New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Raina McIntyre, a biosecurity professor at the University of New South Wales’ Kirby Institute, told the BBC that Australia’s response had been “light years ahead” of the US and the UK.

“It is just thoroughly shocking. When we think of pandemics we don’t think that well-resourced, high-income countries are going to fall apart at the seams, but that is exactly what we have seen,” she said.

At the end of Tuesday, Melbourne’s five million residents will see an end to strict stay-home orders that put an entire city into a type of protective custody.

When the restrictions are lifted, Melburnians will have endured one of the world’s longest and toughest lockdowns.

It’s been controversial, calamitous for jobs and crushingly hard for many, but health specialists believe it has worked.

There is cautious optimism that with very low case numbers, the worst is over.



chart, histogram: Victoria's daily cases. Entered lockdown 7 July. .


© Provided by BBC News
Victoria’s daily cases. Entered lockdown 7 July. .

“I’m pretty proud of what we have achieved here,” said Professor Sharon Lewin, director of the Doherty Institute in Melbourne. “The outcome has been extraordinary – not without its pain, though.”

On Monday, Melbourne reported no new daily cases for the first time since June. In early August, it was recording more than 700 daily, and dozens of people were dying.

The Victorian state capital was at the heart of an unfolding public health crisis, and in other parts of Australia, which had mostly contained Covid-19, people held their breath.

“Europe and the US are facing enormously high numbers. In Victoria, we had an isolated outbreak pretty much just in Melbourne, and the rest of the country had extremely low, and in many states zero, numbers,” Prof Lewin told the BBC.

“We had absolutely no choice but to go into a significant lockdown if we were going to rejoin the rest of the country, and that gave us motivation.”

Face coverings became mandatory in Victoria, and a night-time curfew blanketed Melbourne.

Life retreated indoors, while on the front-line of an invisible war, a growing number of casualties included health care workers and nursing home residents. The true impact on mental health may never be known.

More on Melbourne’s lockdown:

“We understand why the government has taken that approach and it has worked, but we do feel that the government could move quicker to start easing the restrictions. They are taking an overly cautious approach,” explained Adel Salman, vice-president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, last week.

“The strain on families, the rise in domestic violence – these

Should You Stock Up For A Second Coronavirus Wave? Stores Are

With infectious disease experts in the U.S. calling for residents to buckle in for winter, shoppers might start to plan on another grocery stock up, but do they really need to?

Edward McLaughlin, a professor of food industry management at Cornell University, was quoted in Yahoo! News saying stores may be better prepared for a second round of pandemic panic-buying. Like shoppers, “grocery stores and food retailers are stockpiling products,” he said.

“Retailers have learned key lessons from the pandemic,” he added. “Shoppers will be loyal even if you don’t have the fancy extras, as long as you have the basics.”

Still, some shoppers may want to be prepared. Cases of the novel coronavirus are spreading in the U.S. and throughout Europe. Colder temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere inhibit the body’s natural suppression tactics, meaning people will likely be more vulnerable to infections as the weather cools.

Earlier this month, Dr. Peter Hotez, the Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN an uptick in COVID-19 cases was inevitable.

“This winter — this November, December, January, February — could be the worst time in our epidemic,” he said. “Get ready to hunker down.”

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, that hunkering down meant fewer trips to the grocery store and carts full of goods from bread flour to toilet paper– arguably the hottest commodity of 2020. A stubborn pandemic could prompt shoppes to start hoarding goods again. Higher sales for toilet paper and other consumer staples in Europe and the United States boosted Procter & Gamble’s quarterly results. Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / CHIP SOMODEVILLA

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New wave of coronavirus cases strains resources

With coronavirus hospitalizations surging in much of the United States and daily cases hitting all-time highs, the pandemic is putting new strain on local health systems, prompting plans for makeshift medical centers and new talk of rationing care.



a person driving a car: A health-care worker performs a coronavirus test at a drive-through site in Mesquite, Tex., in August. (Cooper Neill/Bloomberg News)


A health-care worker performs a coronavirus test at a drive-through site in Mesquite, Tex., in August. (Cooper Neill/Bloomberg News)

In Texas, authorities are scrambling to shore up resources in El Paso, where intensive care units hit full capacity on Saturday and where covid-19 hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled to almost 800 in less than three weeks. In Utah, the state hospital association warned that if current trends hold, it will soon have to ask the governor to invoke “crisis standards of care” — a triage system that, for example, favors younger patients.

“It’s an extreme situation, because this means that all your contingency planning has been exhausted,” said Greg Bell, president of the Utah Hospital Association.

“I think all of us agree that the situation we have right now is unsustainable,” said Joe Dougherty, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Safety. 

New reported infections nationwide surpassed 80,000 for the first time ever Friday and again Saturday, as hospitalizations push past 40,000 and daily death tolls begin to climb. This new wave of infections, expected to intensify as winter draws closer, is spread wider than the spring surge that devastated East Coast states and the summer wave that slammed the South and the Southwest. And it comes as some Republican leaders are leery of renewed shutdowns, as Americans grow wearier of restrictions and as the Thanksgiving travel season threatens to supercharge the virus’s spread.

“We are set up for just a perfect storm — a conflagration,” said Megan Ranney, an emergency medicine professor at Brown University. “Right now, you can talk about there being lots of little burning fires across the country. And then Thanksgiving will be the wind that will whip this fire up into an absolute human disaster for our country.”

As holidays near, the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, putting families in a quandary about celebrations and travel

This past week brought the highest number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic started. Dozens of states have seen a seven-day average of more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people, with more than 700 per 100,000 in North Dakota — population-wise, that would be the equivalent of Florida reporting more than 20,000 cases during the same time period.

Speaking Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union,” White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows suggested that the spread of the virus is a foregone conclusion: “We’re not going to control the pandemic,” Meadows said. “We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation.”

But public health officials say every effort to minimize the virus’s damage matters — and could mean all the difference for hospitals on track to become badly overwhelmed.

In Utah, for instance, authorities are hoping that a recent expansion of mask mandates

Italy imposes harshest coronavirus restrictions since spring lockdown as second wave sweeps Europe

Italy became the latest European country to announce new restrictions to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus on Sunday as countries across the continent continue to report surging infections.



A waiter wears a mask while working Sunday at a bar in Rome.


© Yara Nardi/Reuters
A waiter wears a mask while working Sunday at a bar in Rome.

France on Sunday announced more than 50,000 new infections, a new record for the fourth day running. Germany, widely lauded for its initial handling of the virus, reported a surge of its own. The number of coronavirus cases in Poland has doubled in less than three weeks. And Spain has also imposed new restrictions.

The World Health Organization reported new daily case records worldwide three days in a row last week, with new infections reaching more than 465,000 on Saturday. Almost half of those cases were in the organization’s Europe region. The United States set a new record Friday with more than 82,000 confirmed new infections.

“The pandemic is spreading rapidly again, even faster than at the start of it more than half a year ago,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned in her weekly video podcast. 

Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, called trends in both the United States and Europe “deeply troubling.” 

“Unless the U.S. and Europe take decisive action to stop the spread of the virus, we could easily see case numbers that eclipse pre-lockdown levels,” she told The Washington Post. “If case numbers get too large, it may be too difficult to meaningfully slow the virus using measures other than shutdowns.”

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the new restrictions as the country reported a record 21,273 cases on Sunday. Beginning Monday, restaurants and bars will be required to close by 6 p.m., and gyms, pools and movie theaters must shut down entirely. The restrictions are the fourth round of tightening this month in Italy, and the most severe since the country lifted its nationwide lockdown in May.



a man wearing a suit and tie: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte speaks Sunday during a news conference on new measures against the coronavirus.


© Yara Nardi/Reuters
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte speaks Sunday during a news conference on new measures against the coronavirus.

Despite a months-long shutdown in the spring, when the country suffered thousands of deaths, an overloaded health-care system and bodies piling up in hospital wards, it’s clear the fight is far from over.

Italy had 1,208 covid-19 patients in intensive care on Sunday — more than on March 9, when Conte announced the lockdown.

“These are difficult days,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza said Sunday, according to the Associated Press. “The curve of contagion is growing in the world. And in all Europe the wave is very high. We must react immediately and with determination if we want to avoid unsustainable numbers.”

Europe appeared to beat back infection rates during the summer. But as economies have reopened and colder weather pushes people indoors, several countries are now reporting case numbers that are eclipsing records set in the spring.

Numbers have soared in the Czech Republic, which in recent days has requested additional ventilators from an

Where Europe’s Second Wave of Covid-19 Is Filling Up Hospitals






Cases per 100,000

in the last 14 days

Belgium has postponed

all non-essential hospital

work to deal with the influx

of new Covid-19 patients.

About a fifth of

Spain’s ICU beds are

already occupied by

Covid-19 patients.

Cases are rising faster in

the Czech Republic than

anywhere else in Europe.

Physicians there fear a

shortage of medical staff.

Belgium has postponed

all non-essential hospital

work to deal with the influx

of new Covid-19 patients.

Cases per 100,000

in the last 14 days

About a fifth of

Spain’s ICU beds are

already occupied by

Covid-19 patients.

Cases are rising faster in

the Czech Republic than

anywhere else in Europe.

Physicians there fear a

shortage of medical staff.

Cases per 100,000

in the last 14 days

Belgium has postponed

all non-essential hospital

work to deal with the influx

of new Covid-19 patients.

Cases are rising faster in

the Czech Republic than

anywhere else in Europe.

Physicians there fear a

shortage of medical staff.

About a fifth of

Spain’s ICU beds are

already occupied by

Covid-19 patients.

Belgium has postponed

all non-essential hospital

work to deal with the influx

of new Covid-19 patients.

Cases per 100,000

in the last 14 days

Cases are rising faster in

the Czech Republic than

anywhere else in Europe.

Physicians there fear a

shortage of medical staff.

About a fifth of

Spain’s ICU beds are

already occupied by

Covid-19 patients.


Source: European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, New York Times database of cases

LONDON — Poland has turned its largest stadium into an emergency field hospital. The numbers of Covid-19 patients in Belgium and Britain have doubled in two weeks. And doctors and nurses in the Czech Republic are falling ill at an alarming rate.

As new cases of the virus began to increase again across Europe last month, hospitals were initially spared the mass influx of patients they weathered earlier this spring. Some suggested that the virus had become less deadly, or that older, more vulnerable people would be shielded.

But a second wave of serious illness is here, new data released on Thursday shows, making it clear that the pandemic is still dangerous and that adherence to control measures over the next few weeks will be crucial in preventing hospitals from becoming overrun for a second time this year.


Where People Are Sick From the Coronavirus

Country

Patients in hospital per 100,000

Spring peak

% of spring peak

Czech Republic

35

4

882%

Spain

29

Belgium

22

50

43%

Bulgaria

21

6

381%

Poland

21

9

230%

Hungary

18

7

249%

France

16

48

34%

21 European countries

14

31

45%

Italy

13

55

24%

Slovenia

13

6

226%

Croatia

12

9

136%

Slovakia

12

4

285%

United States

11

18

61%

Portugal

11

13

83%

United Kingdom

10

30

33%

Austria

8

12

68%

Ireland

6

18

31%

Luxembourg

5

35

15%

Latvia

4

2

163%

Estonia

3

12

23%

Denmark

2

9

23%

Finland

1

4

23%

Norway

1

6

10%

Iceland

0.3