COVID-19: Countries should commit for Universal Bio-deterrence

  • IASbaba
  • May 2, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 2 & 3:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in Health sectors 
  • Challenges to National Security
  • International Organisation and their mandates

COVID-19: Countries should commit for Universal Bio-deterrence

Context: COVID-19 pandemic has awakened the world to the destructive potential of a possible biological weapon. Many see COVID-19 as a quasi-biological war in its scale, scope, duration and impact. 

Health and biosecurity have, thus, become paramount in national security in 2020.

Challenges of Biological Weapons

  • Difficult to differentiate between intentional harm and accidental transmission.
  • New biological agents cannot be anticipated
  • Highly transmissible and deadly
  • The time lag in finding treatment and vaccines inflicts high morbidity and mortality on defenceless populations. 
  • The latency period and mutation into different strains makes disease detection and control difficult. 
  • It affects the armed forces’ capacity to deal with other conventional and terrorist threats
  • Amenable to be used by non-state actors: Bioterrorism by non-state actors through accidental release or theft of biological disease agents from research facilities
  • Mass contagion and fatalities can bring even the most powerful economies to a halt. 
  • Societies can be put into turmoil and governance can suffer serious crises.

What measures are need to tackle dangers of Bio-weapons?

  1. Integration with National Security
  • Biosecurity should be mainstreamed into our defence, security and counterterrorism strategies.
  • A dedicated National Rapid Deployment Biosecurity Force should be established 
  • This would consist of armed forces, police and health responders who perform frontline pandemic-related bio-defence, and disaster relief and response roles.
  1. Developing Bio-intelligence
  • Effective, credible, national and international, bio-intelligence systems — especially for new diseases and potential bioweapons — should be put in place. 
  • National defence intelligence should incorporate medical intelligence and infectious diseases-risk assessment, and pandemic predictions. 
  • Countries should develop National strategies for bio-intelligence and cooperate with other friendly biosecurity powers
  1. Bio-safety of Research facilities
  • Governmental and private R&D labs, biotech and virology centres need to be catalogued according to established safety levels, especially for dangerous biological toxins. 
  • Protocols in case of accidents and theft need to be established for them.
  1. Developing multilateral bio-surveillance mechanisms.
  • Empowering WHO’s health security mechanisms to surveil and access facilities in countries free from geopolitical pressures. 
  • Non-proliferation and export control on dual-use biological materials and technologies.
  • All countries need to recommit to a doctrine of universal bio-deterrence. 
  1. Changes in Governance
  • Countries need to make all normal laboratories and medical facilities transformable into a seamless biosecurity infrastructure for quick and reliable testing
  • Countries should pursue national self-sufficiency in medical and healthcare supply chains 


India needs to propel the early reinforcement of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention with a comprehensive, legally-binding protocol on credible biosurveillance, verification and compliance mechanism at the 2021 review conference.

Connecting the dots:

  • Chemical Weapons
  • Trade control regimes: Wassenaar agreement, Australia Group, MTCR and NSG

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