Chinese hackers are trying to steal research on the COVID-19 vaccine, US officials announced on Wednesday, raising tensions between the superpowers as markets collapse following warnings from the Federal Reserve that prolonged closings could cause “lasting damage”.
Europe, for its part, has continued its plans to gradually reopen summer tourism, even as fears persist of a second wave of infections in the pandemic which has forced more than half of humanity to behind closed doors in recent months.
While some countries are struggling after a new wave of cases and the death toll worldwide exceeds 294,000, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the virus “could never go away”.
There is no proven treatment for COVID-19. An effective vaccine could allow countries and economies to fully and potentially reopen millions of dollars for its creators.
Amidst these high stakes, hackers linked to Beijing are trying to steal research and intellectual property related to treatments and vaccines, two American security agencies warned.
“China’s efforts to target these sectors pose a significant threat to our country’s response to COVID-19,” said the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
Neither organization provided evidence or examples to support the allegation.
Washington, which has confirmed nearly 1.4 million American cases of the virus and more than 84,000 deaths, is increasingly blaming Beijing for the epidemic that first appeared in China late last year.
Beijing has repeatedly denied the US accusations.
The value of a vaccine was underlined as Jerome Powell, head of the US Federal Reserve, warned on Wednesday that extended stops could cause “lasting” economic damage.
Powell’s warning blew up the ball on Wall Street, analysts said, stocks slipping on comments even as he also said that the US economy should rebound “substantially” once the epidemic is brought under control.
Trump, trying to revive the world’s largest economy as he seeks re-election this year, rejects past warnings from health officials – in particular lead infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, who warned that the reopening too early risk of triggering an uncontrollable epidemic.
On Wednesday, the president dismissed Fauci’s call for caution as “unacceptable”, and in an excerpt from an interview with Fox Business to be broadcast in full on Thursday, Trumpsaid: “I totally disagree with him about schools.”
EN NW SOT TRUMP ON REOPEN SCHOOLS 6H
Some indication of the cost of moving too quickly could be seen in European markets, given further dismemberment by data showing new homes in South Korea and Germany.
Russia, now the country with the second highest number of virus cases, has registered more than 10,000 new infections after authorities relaxed home stay orders this week.
Fears were also growing of a second wave in China, with the city of Jilin in the northeast of the country being partially locked out and Wuhan, where the virus was first detected last year, planned to test its entire population after clusters of new cases.
France reopens some beaches
However, with no vaccine in sight and dire economic data pointing to the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, many countries were trying to reopen.
Desperate to save millions of tourism jobs, the European Union has drawn up plans for a gradual resumption of travel this summer, with border controls which will eventually be lifted and measures to minimize infections, such as wearing masks on shared transportation.
In France, some beaches reopened on Wednesday – but only for swimming and fishing, while sunbathing remained prohibited.
Residents of England were allowed to leave their homes more freely, as data showed that the British economy had shrunk by 2% in January-March, its fastest collapse since 2008 – and with a much worse contraction to come. .
Hospitals refuse people
Elsewhere, cases were skyrocketing.
Chile has imposed a total lockdown in its capital, Santiago, after a 60% jump in infections in the past 24 hours.
Argentine authorities watched Buenos Aires with suspicion after one of its poorest and most densely populated areas showed an outbreak of infections. The water had been shut off in Villa 31 for eight days.
Brazil is becoming a new global hotspot despite the fact that President Jair Bolsonaro has called the pandemic a “little flu”.
Health experts have warned of the potentially devastating consequences of the spread of the virus in the developing world, where health care systems are underfunded and isolation is often not possible.
In northern Nigeria, fears of the spread of the virus have seen hospitals shut down for the sick.
Official Binta Mohammed said she should watch her husband die from “diabetic complications”.
“The four private hospitals we took him to refused to admit him for fear he had the virus,” she said.
“Difficult old lady”
But there were stories of hope, including two hundred year olds who survived the virus.
In Spain, Maria Branyas, 113, fought the disease during weeks of isolation in a retirement home where several other residents died from the disease.
And in Russia, Pelageya Poyarkova, 100, seized a bouquet of red roses as she was leaving a Moscow hospital after her own recovery.
“She turned out to be a tough old lady,” said the hospital’s acting director, Vsevolod Belousov.