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To get through the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to learn how to live in an ongoing disaster

Canadians need to rethink their relationship to the pandemic by learning to live in a state of continual disaster for the foreseeable future.

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People wait in line — some for over two hours — at a PCR COVID-19 test site in Toronto. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

As Canada approaches the 700-day mark of the pandemic, the disaster’s state of play is as grim as it is discouraging. On Dec. 22, Canada reported 12,114 new COVID-19 infections — a record for daily cases since the start of the pandemic.

With a patchwork of provincial pandemic restrictions across Canada changing daily, many holiday season activities have either been scaled back or cancelled for the second year in a row. The context for these disruptions is that as we approach the end of 2021, the number of Canadians killed by COVID-19 has surpassed 30,000.

At this point in the COVID-19 disaster, it is beyond the capacity of federal or provincial governments to provide a way out of this emergency. COVID-19 has no respect for norms or established practices of how we deal with disaster. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has resorted to suggesting Canadians hunker down to stop the spread of omicron.

Canadians need to rethink their relationship to the pandemic by learning to live in a state of continual disaster for the foreseeable future.

Contrasting messages

In a wide-ranging federal government news conference, the Trudeau administration projected an approach of prudence.

Trudeau tells Canadian to ‘hunker down’ to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian approach is a stark contrast to the American approach, which is to not panic about omicron and to try to enjoy the holidays. Pointed questions from reporters forced the Trudeau government to push back at U.S. President Biden’s message that vaccinated persons could gather safely for the holidays, despite the spread of omicron.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland rejected the notion that the federal government was in any way offering a counsel of panic or a counsel of despair.

Leading up to the holiday season, common activities included waiting in lines — sometimes futilely — at liquor stores to obtain take-home testing supplies, not being able to obtain testing results in a timely manner, and a “hunger games scramble” for vaccination and booster appointments.

Experiences such as these do not contribute to reducing panic or despair.

The disaster cycle

Emergency management planning often uses a four-phase disaster cycle: mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. In many instances of natural disasters, the four-phase disaster cycle model works well to dissect disasters and better understand them, providing lessons to manage future disasters.

In figuring out how to cope with disasters, the disaster cycle provides reference points to guide responses to a sudden emergency to eventual recovery. For example, an analysis conducted a decade after the 2009 earthquake in L'Aquila, Italy used the four-phase disaster cycle to dissect the response to a natural disaster.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we’re still in the emergency part of the disaster. The reference points in the disaster cycle leading from response to recovery are lost, and recovery is not yet discernible. The public is too fatigued to maintain a constant state of preparedness. And the possibility of any mitigation is a distant dream at this point.

Recent research in risk management suggests that disasters are dynamic — the event evolves according to the actions taken to counteract its impact. Considering the changing nature of emergencies and responses incorporates innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership, situational awareness, resilience and learning.

A dynamic approach can help catalyse new thinking on how to deal with the uniqueness of disasters like COVID-19.

The Blitz spirit

Perhaps inspiration can be sought from London during the Second World War. Londoners hunkered down through an eight-month-long German bombing campaign.

A bus leans against the debris from bombed houses
Almost 20,000 civilians died in London during the Blitz. (H. F. Davis)

Perhaps intangible traits like those of the Blitz Spirit are now needed — the ongoing disaster of COVID-19 needs to be met with a grim willingness to carry on. We have no other choice.

Somehow citizens subjected to months of air raids learned to deal with continual disaster. The tenacity and resilience shown during the Blitz can offer population level insights regarding the current trauma of COVID-19 and offer suggestions to current day hospital workers regarding fears of their hospitals being overrun.

According to historians, pandemics typically have two types of endings. The first is the medical ending that is reached when the incidence and death rates plummet. The second is the social ending, where either due to fatigue or other reasons individual’s decide the pandemic is over for them, irregardless of the science. Drawing a parallel to the Blitz, imagine the consternation of air raid wardens if individuals tired of blackout regulations and turned on lights at night signalling their location to enemy bombers.

Going into 2022, it is time to accept that we can no longer manage our way out of this disaster. We just have to cope as best we can by hunkering down — there is no other choice.

Jack L. Rozdilsky is a Professor at York University who receives funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research as a co-investigator on a project supported under operating grant Canadian 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Rapid Research Funding.

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Monkeypox cases are rising. Should we be worried?

The World Health Organization has said the current outbreak of monkeypox is the largest ever recorded outside sub-Saharan
The post Monkeypox cases are…

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The World Health Organization has said the current outbreak of monkeypox is the largest ever recorded outside sub-Saharan Africa, with cases rising above the 100-mark a few days ago and the UK top of the table with 56 as of yesterday.

Top of the list of concerns is how the virus – which does not spread easily between humans and requires skin-to-skin contact – is spreading so quickly in so many countries in Europe, the Americas and Australia where the disease is not endemic.

There is speculation that monkeypox may be being spread between sexual partners, even though it is not normally considered a sexually-transmitted infection. Thankfully, there have been no deaths reported so far, although the WHO notes monkeypox has a fatality rate of between 3% and 6%.

While health authorities are on alert, the WHO said it thinks the outbreak can be contained and that the overall risk to the population remains low. It also stressed there is no evidence that a viral mutation is responsible for the unusual pattern of infections.

Monkeypox is considered less likely to mutate quickly because it is a DNA virus rather than an RNA virus like influenza or COVID-19.

Several countries including Belgium and the UK are already advising a three-week quarantine period for anyone who contracts the virus and their close contacts.

The increasing case numbers in the current monkeypox outbreak are certainly concerning,” commented Dr Charlotte Hammer, an expert in emerging infectious diseases based at the University of Cambridge in the UK.

“It is very unusual to see community transmission in Europe – previous monkeypox cases have been in returning travellers with limited ongoing spread. However, based on the number of cases that were already discovered across Europe and the UK in the previous days, it is not unexpected that additional cases are now being and will be found, especially with the contact tracing that is now happening.”

Vaccines and drugs are available

Meanwhile, attention is now being turned to other measures to control the outbreak, including the use of vaccines against smallpox – a related virus – in a ‘ring vaccination’ approach designed to control the spread among contacts.

Vaccines used during the smallpox eradication programme can provide around 85% protection against monkeypox, according to the WHO, which notes that one newer vaccine – Bavarian Nordic’s Jyneos – has been approved by the FDA for prevention against both viruses.

There’s also a licensed antiviral drug for monkeypox. SIGA Technologies’ oral drug Tpoxx (tecovirimat) is approved for smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox in Europe, and in the US and Canada for smallpox, although it can be used off-label for the other disease. The US FDA also approved a new intravenous form of the drug last week.

The WHO says there is no need for widespread vaccination, as other control measures like isolation of patients should be enough to curb the spread and in any case supplies of vaccines are limited.

Monkeypox causes symptoms similar to but milder than smallpox, typically beginning with fever, headache, muscle aches and exhaustion. It is transmitted to people from various wild animals, such as rodents and primates, and is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting from two to four weeks.

In 2003, the US experienced an outbreak of monkeypox, which was the first time human monkeypox was reported outside of Africa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is making some Jyneos vaccine reserves available for close contact inoculations, including healthcare workers tending to patients.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said yesterday it had identified 36 additional cases of monkeypox in England, and that vaccination of high-risk contacts of cases is already underway.

“A notable proportion of recent cases in the UK and Europe have been found in gay and bisexual men so we are particularly encouraging these men to be alert to the symptoms,” said the agency’s chief medical advisor Dr Susan Hopkins.

“Because the virus spreads through close contact, we are urging everyone to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service if they have any symptoms.”

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What does good cybersecurity look like in 2022?

The pharma industry is becoming an increasingly hot commodity for cybercriminals. In recent years, digital adoption has accelerated
The post What does…

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The pharma industry is becoming an increasingly hot commodity for cybercriminals. In recent years, digital adoption has accelerated at a rapid pace, with companies racing to integrate cloud-based platforms and telehealth services to expand the delivery of modern healthcare. Combined with the sudden arrival of COVID-19, this perfect storm of events handed cybercriminals an opportunity to exploit weaknesses in fledging systems and processes.

Pharma companies hold masses of vital data sets, from classified intellectual property to proprietary information about drugs and clinical trial developments. The value of such data is not lost on cybercriminals. This was illustrated in 2021, amid growing awareness of the pharma industries’ efforts to develop and distribute COVID-19 vaccines. According to cybersecurity firm Critical Insights, the number of cybersecurity breaches in healthcare reached an all-time high in 2021, exposing an unprecedented amount of protected health information.

Cyber attacks can be highly damaging, both financially and to a company’s reputation. Therefore, it is essential that necessary steps are taken, both at a company and individual level, to understand and prevent the risk of cyber threats. But what does good cybersecurity actually look like? To help navigate the complex world of digital crime, Adarma’s threat consultant Mike Varley, KnowBe4 lead security awareness advocate Javvad Malik, CEO and founder of CyberSmart Jamie Akhtar, and senior engineer at Trend Micro Simon Walsh offer their insights into key trends and best practises for pharma companies.

Why is the healthcare industry a particular target for cyberattacks?

Javvad Malik (JM): Historically cybercriminals were after money, so they often ignored healthcare providers. However, with increasing sophistication within the criminal economies and the ability to monetise data through ransomware, other means of extortion, or resale, healthcare providers have become an almost ideal target for criminals.

Simon Walsh (SW): Despite statements from would-be attackers to the contrary, the healthcare and pharma industries became prime targets during the COVID pandemic, particularly for ransomware operators, as we saw during the breach of the Irish Healthcare Service Executive in May 2021.

There are several reasons for this: they’re seen as easy targets because of their relative lack of security maturity; the COVID pandemic-induced strain they’re already under makes them more likely to pay the ransom; and the fact that the data they hold – patient records – is extremely valuable and opens additional paths to extortion.

Jamie Akhtar (JA): Many healthcare providers have weak or limited defences. These range from poor staff awareness of threats to creaking, outdated operating systems and tech, but whatever the reason, cybercriminals are aware that many healthcare providers make for easy pickings.

Mike Varley (MV): We can expect to see a rising number of ransomware attacks on the healthcare sector. Healthcare is recognised as national critical infrastructure, which makes it an attractive target to malicious foreign entities looking to create chaos and harm. Similarly, when human life is put at risk by an attack, organisations are more likely to pay up, so attackers often view these structures as a quick pay-day.

Where do you see the most mistakes being made in healthcare when it comes to addressing cyber threats?

JM: Perhaps the biggest mistakes or challenges healthcare faces when addressing cyber threats are having outdated or unpatched software running, being too quick to purchase or adopt internet-connected devices without demanding rigorous security testing, and, finally, the lack of security awareness and training amongst IT staff.

SW: Security maturity and the ability to successfully detect and withstand attacks comes from understanding cyber risk and building and developing a cyber security strategy around that understanding. This of course needs to be adopted and driven by the board and C-level executives and too often this is not the case, with a lack of understanding and investment resulting in a weakened security posture.

Over-reliance on security technology without adequate human oversight further weakens this posture. The Irish hospitals who successfully prevented the attack in May 2021 were those who not just detected stages of the attack but also understood what those detections meant and acted as a result.

Developing a human oversight function – for example a Security Operations Centre – in house is costly, difficult, and takes time. So, for many in the healthcare/pharma industry, the quickest route to success on this front is working with the correct partner who will provide that function.

JA: There are two areas in which most organisations, not just healthcare providers, could be doing better. Many aren’t doing the simple things that can thwart most cyber-attacks. For example, regularly updating software and operating systems, using strong passwords and MFA, developing clear policies for staff to follow, and ensuring security tools are configured properly.

On top of this, employee awareness of cyber threats just isn’t widespread enough. An organisation can have the best cybersecurity software around but, if an employee doesn’t know what a phishing email looks like and clicks a malicious link, it’ll be hacked just the same. The way to counter this is basic cybersecurity training. It doesn’t have to be comprehensive, just enough to help your people make informed choices.

“Perhaps the biggest mistakes or challenges healthcare faces when addressing cyber threats are having outdated or unpatched software running, being too quick to purchase or adopt internet-connected devices without demanding rigorous security testing, and, finally, the lack of security awareness and training amongst IT staff.”

 

What trends are you seeing in cybersecurity at the moment?

JA: The most worrying trend is the rise in supply chain attacks. Cybercriminals have worked out that the best way to target large enterprises with solid defences, is to attack a smaller, less well-defended supplier who can give them a backdoor in. As a result, we’re seeing more major attacks originate in this way.

Alongside this, phishing continues to be the single most common form of attack. Due to the general lack of awareness in the working population, many organisations are still struggling to contain the threat.

MV: Increasingly I think we will see healthcare sector organisations turning to managed security service providers who have the expertise, capability, and technology to deal with an increasingly complex and harmful cyber landscape.

The healthcare sector is expected to provide an elevated level of cyber protection and with a shortage of cyber talent and the prohibitive cost of establishing a Security Operations Centre internally, organisations will need a trusted security partner that can provide that level of proactive protection.

What advice would you give to companies looking to improve their cybersecurity policies, both on a company-wide scale and individual basis?

JA: Above all, make them clear and easy to follow. Avoid technical jargon, where possible, as this will only disengage people. And, explain why the company has adopted the policies it has; your staff will find it much easier to follow them if they know why. Also, store them somewhere that’s easy to access from anywhere. There’s little use in a policy if it’s buried deep in a shared drive where nobody reads it.

MV: Cybersecurity policies should be informed by a threat-led approach. Regular threat modelling will highlight what threats you are facing and how adversaries are likely to target your organisation. With this information on areas of commonality, your security teams can focus on implementing layered security and monitoring.

Your policy should consider asset awareness. As basic as it sounds, it can be easy for a small handful of assets to fall under the radar within vast enterprises, which leads to out-of-date operating systems and software.

JM: Organisations should look to take a data-driven approach. That means, that in addition to following what is occurring externally in terms of attacks, they should look through a year or two worth of internal security logs to see what was the root cause of the incidents during this time period.

Once the root causes have been identified, they should be prioritised, and then controls be put in place to address those specific root causes. Those should inform the cybersecurity policies and tailor them to the specific risks the organisation is facing.

SW: For companies, start at the top and ensure that the board and C-level executives are capable of understanding and assessing risk. This will drive investment in cyber strategy and improve your chances of mitigating that risk. Human oversight of security-related activity in the organisation is also fundamental.

For individuals, heightened awareness and ongoing education are key. We all have a role to play in cyber-security as 100% reliance on technology is unfortunately never enough.

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CDC Now Recommends COVID Testing For All Domestic Air Travel, Including The Vaccinated

CDC Now Recommends COVID Testing For All Domestic Air Travel, Including The Vaccinated

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times,

The…

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CDC Now Recommends COVID Testing For All Domestic Air Travel, Including The Vaccinated

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that all domestic travelers undergo COVID-19 testing before and after they travel - regardless of vaccination status.

In an update on the agency’s website, anyone traveling within the United States may want to consider “getting tested as close to the time of departure as possible,” and no more than three days before a flight. It previously only recommended testing for people who have not received COVID-19 vaccines or up-to-date booster shots.

The CDC update is also recommending that people take a test before or after a trip if they went to crowded spaces “while not wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator.”

In April, a Florida federal judge struck down the CDC mandate that required people to wear masks inside airports or on airplanes. Justice Department officials have signaled they will challenge the rule, implemented after President Joe Biden took office in early 2021, in court.

A spokesperson for the agency told AFAR Magazine on May 19 that “COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing severe disease and death,” but added, “since vaccines are not 100 percent effective at preventing infection, some people who are up to date can still get COVID-19.”

“People who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines may feel well and not have symptoms but still can be infected and spread the virus to others,” the spokesperson said.

In January of this year, the CDC also implemented a change to its international travel rule, requiring plane passengers aged 2 and older to show a negative COVID-19 test from no more than a day before boarding a flight or proof of recovery from COVID-19 within the previous 90 days. Foreign nationals have to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination as well.

Neither the CDC nor the White House has given any public indication of when the mandatory testing rule for international travelers will be relaxed. Travel groups have pushed for that rule to be removed for months now.

In a letter to the White House, a group representing more than 250 organizations called for an end to the rule, saying it’s only caused “slow economic recovery of the business and international travel sectors.”

After the federal judge’s order was handed down last month, the CDC issued a new recommendation that people inside airports and airplanes wear masks, despite nearly all major airliners having scrapped enforcement.

And during a news briefing last week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who has been criticized for her agency’s messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic, said that people living in counties that the agency deems to have high COVID-19 transmission should wear masks in indoor settings.

Tyler Durden Mon, 05/23/2022 - 17:40

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