The US, UK and Canada have accused Russia of trying to steal coronavirus vaccine research as the pandemic surges across the world, with Brazil surpassing two million confirmed cases and the US notching a new daily record.
The virus has killed more than 588,000 people, infected more than 13.7 million and crippled the global economy since emerging late last year, and world hopes have turned to a vaccine to end the onslaught.
In the latest positive sign, British media reported Thursday that an Oxford University trial had shown its prototype vaccine generated an immune response against COVID-19.
But hours later, the UK’s National Cyber Security Center said a hacking group called APT29 had targeted British labs conducting vaccine research to “steal valuable intellectual property.”
The agency said it was “almost certain (95%+) that APT29 are part of the Russian Intelligence Services” and its targeting of researchers was “highly likely (80-90%)” to “collect information on COVID-19 vaccine research.”
The US, UK and Canada all accused Russia in a joint security advisory.
Moscow denied any involvement, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying: “Russia has nothing to do with these attempts.”
China’s new virus cases
The capital of China’s far-western Xinjiang region curtailed most flights into the city on Friday and has shut down subway and public bus services after several coronavirus infections were detected, government authorities and state-controlled media said.
So far, at least five cases linked to Urumqi have been discovered, including a man who was confirmed positive after he traveled from the city to the eastern province of Zhejiang, state media said.
The infections were detected beginning on Wednesday, and news of the cases prompted state media outlets in Urumqi to issue assurances on Friday that supermarkets had ample stocks of food – an apparent attempt to discourage panic-buying.
The new cases illustrate the continuing difficulty China faces in stamping out the contagion, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year before spreading throughout the country and globally.
India breaches 1 million cases
India on Friday became the third country in the world to record one million coronavirus cases, following Brazil and the United States where infections also continued to surge.
With more than 600 people dying daily in India, lockdowns have been reimposed on millions of people across the world’s second-most-populous nation.
India’s main hotspots had previously been the megacities of Mumbai and New Delhi, but smaller cities and rural areas – where 70 percent of Indians live – have recently begun to raise the alarm.
The coastal tourist region of Goa on Thursday evening became the latest Indian state to go under lockdown, imposing a three-day shutdown and a night time curfew until August 10.