The Latest: Europol issues warning about pandemic cybercrime

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The European Union police agency says in a new report that cybercriminals are cashing in on the coronavirus crisis by targeting people and companies that are spending more time online due to work-from-home orders.

Europol issued its annual Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment Monday. It underscores earlier warnings by the Hague-based police organization to the EU’s 27 member states about cybercrime during the pandemic.

The assessment covers all aspects of cybercrime. It cautions that “many individuals and businesses that may not have been as active online before the crisis became a lucrative target” for cybercriminals who are able to quickly adapt existing online crime to fit emerging vulnerabilities.

Criminals also used the global pandemic to spread disinformation about the virus for financial gain.

The report says that distributing fake news online about potential cures or treatments “facilitated criminals seeking to sell items that they claim will help prevent or cure COVID-19.”

Another element of cybercrime that has risen during the pandemic is the online distribution of images of the sexual abuse of children and livestreaming abuse. The report says that the COVID-19 crisis “revealed an extra surge in online distribution” of such material.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Americans fault US govt over foreign powers for virus crisis

— Trump, moving to show strength, aims for Monday release

— Biden campaign says Democratic presidential nominee tested negative for virus

— EU top official self-isolating after contact with virus case

— Asian shares rise as investors are optimistic about Trump’s recovery from virus

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Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Danish Health Authority has called off the traditional Halloween routine where costumed children and adults go from house to house, asking for trick or treats, and said that such practices “may be associated with the risk of spreading the infection.”

In its latest recommendation, the government agency suggests organizing Halloween parties only with people who see each other often and “replace the door-to-door candy collection with other activities, such as carving out pumpkins (or) an outdoor treasure hunt” or making Halloween paper decorations.

“If you serve sweets, make sure they are wrapped or portioned,” the agency said.

In the past years, the Oct. 31 festivities have become rather big in Denmark that has seen 30,057 cases and 659 deaths.

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DETROIT — Buses returned to Detroit streets Monday after a three-day work stoppage by drivers over coronavirus protections and disputes with riders.

Police officers will increase their presence as part of a deal between the city and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26. Riders must continue to wear masks and they must not cross a barrier or approach the driver.

Drivers “generally do not feel safe at work due to violent and threatening circumstances presented by customers and members of the public,” the memo states.

Detroit buses serve an average of 85,000 people a day.

A driver was suspended for 29 days for a fight with a rider who boarded without a mask. Mayor Mike Duggan said the strike, which began Friday, was in response to the suspension.

Duggan said video of the incident was “disturbing.”

Union leader Glenn Tolbert said Duggan’s remarks were insensitive to drivers.

“We’ve had drivers stabbed and punched,” Tolbert said. “I think that’s the narrative the city would have preferred than a driver protecting himself. I don’t think that driver acted improperly.”

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LINCOLN, Neb. — More people are hospitalized with the coronavirus in Nebraska than ever before, and the number of deaths linked to the virus has topped 500 in the state.

The number of hospitalizations for the virus jumped to 249 on Saturday and remained at that level on Sunday. Previously, the number of people being treated in Nebraska hospitals peaked at 232 on May 27, according to the state’s online virus tracker.

But even with the high number of hospitalizations, Nebraska said 33% of the state’s intensive care beds and 78% of the ventilators remained available.

Last month, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts eliminated nearly all of the state’s social-distancing restrictions in favor of voluntary guidelines. Ricketts has said the hospital statistics show the state’s medical facilities have not been overwhelmed with virus cases.

The state reported four new deaths and 404 new cases of coronavirus on Sunday to give Nebraska 501 deaths and 47,807 cases of the virus since the pandemic began. Nebraska continues to report a high rate of virus cases. The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Nebraska has risen over the past two weeks from 11.86% on Sept. 20 to 13.49% on Sunday, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.

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PARIS — French authorities placed the Paris region on maximum virus alert on Monday, saying the new restrictions would apply at least for the next two weeks.

Starting on Tuesday, bars will be closed in Paris and its suburbs. Student parties and all other festive and family events in establishments open to the public will be banned.

Restaurants will remain open under strict conditions, to be detailed later on Monday. They are expected to include distance between each table, a limitation of the number of people and a request to register customers’ names and phone numbers.

The director of the Regional Health Authority, Aurelien Rousseau, said about 3,500 new cases of infection are confirmed on average each day in the Paris region, and 36% of ICU beds in the area are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Marseille and nearby Aix-en-Provence, as well as the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe, in the Caribbean have had alerts raised to the maximum level for the past 12 days. French health authorities reported 16,972 new cases of infection on Saturday, the highest daily number since the country began widespread testing.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch justice minister says churches have agreed to limit the number of people attending services after hundreds of faithful gathered in one town’s church over the weekend even as coronavirus infections rose across the country.

The government says it can’t impose the measures on churches or enforce them because of the constitutional freedom of religion.

Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus told reporters Monday that churches will adhere to the same restrictions that were imposed during the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak earlier this year.

Grapperhaus says that churches will hold services online as much as possible, restrict visitor numbers to a maximum of 30 people and ban singing.

Confirmed new infections have been spiking in the Netherlands and rose to just over 4,000 per day over the weekend.

In an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, the government has tightened restrictions, including limiting groups to a maximum of 30 people at indoor public venues such as shops, museums and libraries.

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GENEVA — The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization says its “best estimates” indicate that roughly one in 10 people worldwide may have been infected by the coronavirus.

Dr. Michael Ryan, speaking Monday to a meeting of the WHO’s 34-member executive board focusing on COVID-19, said the figures vary from urban to rural, and between different groups, but that ultimately it means “the vast majority of the world remains at risk.”

The estimate — which would amount to more than 760 million people based on current world population of about 7.6 billion — far outstrips the number of confirmed cases as tallied by both WHO and Johns Hopkins University, now more than 35 million worldwide.

Experts have long said that the number of confirmed cases greatly underestimates the true figure.

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GENEVA — The U.N. health agency says a new survey shows the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted or stopped critical mental health services in more than nine in 10 countries worldwide, even as need for them is rising.

The World Health Organization says its survey, conducted between June and August in 130 countries, is the first to detail the “devastating impact” of COVID-19 on access to mental health services.

More than two-thirds of countries reported disruptions to counselling and psychotherapy, and over one-third cited disruptions to emergency interventions.

“Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia and anxiety,” a WHO statement said. “Meanwhile, COVID-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications, such as delirium, agitation and stroke.”

The survey comes ahead of a WHO-backed advocacy event on Saturday for World Mental Health Day.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Monday he will self-quarantine after a Cabinet minister he was in contact with tested positive for the coronavirus.

Muhyiddin had chaired an Oct. 3 meeting attended by Religious Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, who confirmed Monday he has been hospitalized for treatment.

Cases in the country have soared in recent days, hitting a record high of 432 on Monday. Malaysia’s tally of virus cases is at 12,813 with 137 deaths.

Muhyiddin said he tested negative for the virus three times in the past two weeks, after returning from campaigning in eastern Sabah state on Borneo island which is a hotspot zone.

But he said in a statement he will observe the quarantine and work from home until Oct. 16. All those at the meeting will also observe self-isolation. Local reports said the attendees included several ministers, the national police chief, the armed forces chief and the health director-general.

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MADRID — Groups representing more than 170,000 health workers are urging Spanish politicians to base their response to the pandemic on scientific grounds rather than politics.

A 10-point manifesto by 55 scientific societies published Sunday in all the major newspapers said “decisions must be based on the best available scientific evidence, completely detached from the continuous political confrontation.”

The campaign comes after a dispute between the left-wing national government and the conservative regional authorities of the Madrid region led to weeks of back and forth before partially locking down the Spanish capital late Friday amid a surge of infections.

The manifesto also calls for less red-tape in adopting measures against virus outbreaks, for authorities in Spain’s 19 regions to abide by a set of national scientific standards that would dictate the response, and calls for stopping interference in medical decisions.

Addressing “politicians” in general, the scientists write: “On behalf of more than 47 million Spaniards, including you and your families, we have to change so much political, professional and human inconsistency.”

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BRUSSELS — Authorities in Belgium are warning that the number of virus cases is rising sharply and is likely to do so for several more months.

A spokesman for Belgium’s COVID-19 crisis center says that “unfortunately, the stabilization that we had hoped for has not happened. On the contrary, we see a clear increase in the number of cases in every region and age group.”

The number of new cases reported daily over the last week climbed by 32% to around 2,100, as of Monday. Those aged 20-29 are seeing most new infections, but authorities are particularly concerned for the very elderly, with a tenfold increase in new cases among people aged over 90.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 130,200 people have been infected with the virus in the country, which has around 11.5 million residents. As of Monday, 10,064 people were reported to have died from the disease.

Just last Thursday, Belgium dropped rules requiring people to wear a mask outdoors but they must still do so in crowded places. The government also reduced the mandatory quarantine period from 14 days to one week for people with COVID-19 symptoms who eventually test negative for the virus.

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VILNIUS, Lithuania — Lithuania’s foreign minister will spend a week in isolation after having had contact with a person from the French delegation who was infected with the coronavirus the French president’s visit to the country last week.

A spokeswoman for the Lithuanian foreign minister made the announcement.

The French Embassy in Vilnius told the Baltic News Service that two embassy staffers had tested positive for the coronavirus and they were part of the delegation.

The persons are self-isolating and the French Embassy has been closed for several days.

The French Embassy said the whole delegation from Paris was pre-tested and the results were negative before the visit.

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STOCKHOLM — A technology institute in Sweden has found large concentrations of the coronavirus in Stockholm’s sewage system, saying it “has doubled in the last weeks and is now back at the same levels as in May 2020.”

In a statement, the KTH Royal Institute of Technology said the increased number of cases of COVID-19 in recent weeks is reflected in the wastewater and thus not due to more people being tested.

“My interpretation is that this latest increase is definitely about an increased number of infected people in society,” said Cecilia Williams, a professor at the institute in Stockholm.

Sweden, which has opted for a much debated COVID-19 approach of keeping large parts of the society open, has reported 94,283 cases and 5,895 deaths.

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