THE NEW SUNDAY EXPRESS VOICES ANIRBAN GANGULY AMAR BHUSHAN RAVI SHANKAR RAJAT CHAUDHURI SHINIE ANTONY MATA AMRITANANDAMAYI BUFFET MAGAZINE PEOPLE WELLNESS BOOKS FOOD ART & CULTURE ENTERTAINMENT MARCH 22 2020 SUNDAY PAGES 12 Virus War The raging advance of Covid-19, the desperate search for a vaccine, clueless politicians, economic crisis and widespread panic could also teach us how to respond to bioterror attacks. Is India ready? Conspiracy theorists have warned that the novel coronavirus had escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a military lab dedicated to the study of deadly pathogens. According to an Israeli biological warfare specialist, the institute is part of Beijing’s secret bioweapons programme. China is currently building around five bio-facilities. The US, Europe, Russia and Australia have around 50 functioning or under-construction maximum-security labs, according to news reports. Western intel suspects that Iran and North Korea also possess chemical weapon labs. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has “high” intentions to procure chemical weapons and biological devices, particularly in Pakistan and Yemen, states a testimony by a top US counterterrorism official. By RAVI SHANKAR and NC BIPINDRA T he dying months of 2001 were bad for America and the world. Less than a month after Islamic terrorists crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center, 62-year-old photojournalist Bob Stevens was admitted in a Florida hospital on October 2, 2001. The initial diagnosis was meningitis but it was soon found to be poisoning by anthrax, a weapon of bioterrorism. A few days later, in India, the Postal Department received 17 “suspicious” letters believed to be infected with anthrax spores. Though many individuals and institutions received the envelopes with white powder, none of them tested positive. It was dismissed as a copycat hoax. virus. Large medical facilities are needed to isolate, treat, and decontaminate patients before discharging them. You need special clothing for personnel operating in contaminated areas, not just masks.” Two lethal non-conventional warfare threats haunt global security . • Biological weapons manufactured by terrorists. • Chemical agents used by totalitarian governments to kill dissidents at home and abroad. “Biological attacks, both state-sponsored and otherwise, are a real threat despite the many treaties prohibiting them. Though the Indian Army is trained to prepare for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks, the programmes are on the back burner due to lack of resources,” says Centre for Joint Warfare Studies Director Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia (retired), who was previously Director General, Military Operations. India, with its vast disorganised population, dismal health facilities and poor connectivity is , sitting on a virus time bomb. Though the fatality infection and , recovery rate of Covid-19, as the novel coronavirus is called, is comparatively low, experts are not sure full data is available. NO PREVENTION FOR LONE WOLF ATTACKS ANSWERING THE COVID QUESTION The pandemic has sent countries and economies into a tailspin. As soon as the outbreak began from Wuhan in central China, conspiracy theorists warned that the virus had escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology a military lab in the , province which is dedicated to the study of deadly pathogens. According to Dany Shoham, Israeli biological warfare specialist and expert on Chinese biological warfare capabilities, the institute is part of Beijing’s secret bioweapons programme. In 2019, Canada expelled Chinese researcher Xiangguo Qiu who was working in a government-run lab, which studies numerous infectious diseases, including Ebola, to create vaccines and cures. She had previous experience working in Chinese labs dealing with lethally infectious diseases. China is currently building around five bio-facilities. Beijing has blamed the US Army for bringing the virus to their country Foreign ministry . spokesman Zhao Lijian tweeted on March 12, “When did patient zero begin in US? ...It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.” Tweeting sympathy for China, former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested that the “#Corona lab-made virus” was deliberately created as a biological weapon by Beijing’s enemies to halt the country’s progress. The US, Europe, Russia and Australia have around 50 functioning or under-construction maximum-security labs, according to news reports. Western intelligence suspects that Iran and North Korea also possess chemical weapon labs. The study of dangerous pathogens such as Ebola or Marburg cannot be conducted without importing the viruses into a country All nations . doing virology research have lab biosafety levels of (BSL-4) with 24/7 security with their own air supply and filters. But in the face of Covid-19 crisis, US President Donald Trump plunged America into panic by dithering, dismissing the impact with outright falsehoods. Many political leaders are in quarantine indicating that nobody is safe. Whole cities and countries are in lockdown. Says a former Indian Air Force Commander-in-Chief of a key Air Command, “The actions and capabilities required to tackle bioterrorism are identical to the ones required to contain corona- Currently Japan is on a war , footing to prevent bioterror attacks during the July-August Tokyo Olympics, which is expected to attract 600,000 visitors from abroad. For the first time, it has imported five types of live viruses—Ebola, Marburg, Lassa, Crimean-Congo and South American viruses—to study detection and prevention measures. Bringing pathogens into a country is easy for terrorists, since virus sensors are largely ineffective. It is simple for a terrorist to unleash a contagion—germs can be mixed in powders and aerosol sprays. They can be sent by mail on infected envelopes or notepaper. They can be added to food or a city’s water supply They can be released into . the wind from a truck, building, or plane. The modern terrorist is highly motivated and educated, and holds advanced science and IT degrees. There is nothing to Turn to page 2 Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad has used choking agents, such as chlorine gas and blister agents like sulphur mustard. The 2013 sarin gas attack killed over 1,400 non-combatants in Damascus. Ironically, Syria is part of the prohibitory Chemical Weapons Convention of 1997. A UN-sponsored organisation has discovered that the IS used sulfur mustard gas in Syria against civilians—the first time an Islamist group used bioweapons. Security agencies fear rogue IS operatives or terrorists could detonate a nuke. IAEA says “millions of radioactive sources have been distributed worldwide over the past 50 years” in several commercial, industrial, medical and research sites in over 100 countries. Most of these are poorly guarded.
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