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Is Coronavirus A Biological Weapon

Since the time the news of coronavirus has spread on social platform, it has been a controversial question that Is This Virus A Biological Weapon and a threat of warfare situation. Instead of baseless claims we do not hold any concrete evidences. Though many theories have been raised claiming this virus as a man-made but yet we lack in substantial proof.

Many nations are facing a huge crises due to the circumstances created by COVID-19 globally. Top 5 countries include United States, India, Brazil, Russia, South Africa are the most affected ones. If we go as per the current data (in August) we will find that 213 Countries and Territories around the world have so far reported 24,940,758 confirmed cases and a death toll of 841,991 due to the spread of this new coronavirus. We aren't so sure about the virus being a biological weapon nor we can ignore such claim. We must pray for the situation to get better and the truth to rise.

Understanding Biological Weapons

To understand whether or not the coronavirus is a bioweapon we must consider WHAT IS A BIOLOGICAL WEAPON? Biological / bioweapon in basic terms are the agents (micro-organisms) that can transmit disease and are used as weapons against living beings. They are the bacteria , viruses , fungi, toxins, rickettsia of some sort. Also we can call them a germ tool. These are released in order to cause deadly disease in living beings.

We can think of few biological weapons such as anthrax, botulinum toxin and plague, they can spread a disease that can cause large numbers of deaths in very short spam time. Bioterrorism attacks may also lead to a reference epidemic; if Ebola and Lassa viruses are used as biological agents. The use of biological agents like that is a very serious problem.

Primarily biological weapons are the group of large class of weapons which may be referred to as weapons of mass destruction. They also incorporate chemical, nuclear and radiological weapons. Though this term is not very appropriate in the case of biological armaments.

In terms of structures, buildings, or facilities, lethal biological weapons are capable of causing death on a wide scale while they are unable to cause mass destruction. Because of this potential for initiating pandemics, which contributes to the difficulty of managing the effect, several countries have agreed to ban them (entire class).

Biological Warfare Agents:

It's what warfare is called using these biological agents in a state of war. It has been referred to as an ancient method of using certain kinds of infectious agents against the enemies. They vary in the type of organism and toxins used in the weapon system, incubation duration, durability, infectiousness, and the possibility of being administered with current vaccines and medicines.

There are normally 5 Categories of biological weapons which could be used in warfare.

These intend to include:
  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Rickettsia
  • Toxins
In many dissension, it is visible that the diseases have caused more damage though no weapons were used. The damage caused may refer to deaths caused in those situations.

Observing the report of 2013, in totality of 180 states along with Taiwan had signed the Biological Weapon Convention (BWC) and 170 of those states and Taiwan had signed and approved the treaty, which required signature in 1972. As per the terms of the BWC, member states are prohibited from using biological weapons in warfare and from developing, testing, producing, stockpiling, or deploying them.[i]

Use Of Biological Weapons Before 20th Century

That is what the use of these biological agents in a state of war is called warfare. It has been called an ancient way of using certain forms of infectious agents against the enemies. They differ in the type of organism and contaminants used in the delivery system, length of incubation, longevity, infectiousness and the likelihood of existing vaccinations and medicines being administered.

One of the instance of 1710 is when a Russian army fighting with Swedish forces blocked in Reval ( now Tallinn, Estonia) also send plagued- infested corpses over the city's walls.

Later in 1763, when British soldiers surrounded by armed forces at Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh) transferred the smallpox-infected blankets during the Pontiac Revolt. These were passed to the Indians at that time causing devastating epidemic.

Parts
If we speak about the basic parts of these biological weapons we can see that these weapons are divided into 2 parts. The first is biological agent also known as bioagent, biological threatening agent or biological warfare agent. There agents are so called pathogens which are helpful in causing sickness among living beings. The second one is the delivery system that is in what ways will the biological agent will be exposed to the people to infect them.

Many bio-weapons can be updated to make them more dangerous. This is achieved in such a way that these agents cannot be destroyed by usual antidotes or treatments and can be processed, distributed and used as weapons with ease.

About Coronavirus

The idea that coronavirus is not a disease but rather that coronavirus is a type of virus is necessary to make clear. They are of many forms and some cause illness. SARS-CoV-2 is a new coronavirus that is also mortally known. This caused a global pandemic of respiratory diseases known as COVID-19.

There are few highlighted points which one should know about COVID-19:

  1. COVID-19 is a disease caused by new coronavirus which came to light in Wuhan, China in December,2019.
  2. Prime symptoms may include:
    • Cough
    • Fever
    • Difficulty breathing/ Shortness of breath
    • Muscle/body aches
    • Sore throat
    • Losing sense of taste or smell
    • Diarrhoea
    • Headache
    • New fatigue
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting

      COVID-19 is a mysterious disease which can also cause death.
       
  3. This can spread from person-to-person.
     
  4. No vaccine or medication is available to cure this disease so far. Therefore, because we know a popular saying that 'security is better than cure', one must wear face cover masks when out, adopt social-distancing, if not well then stay at home, wash your hands frequently / use sanitiser.
     
  5. The symptoms are visible in human within 14 days of exposure to virus.

This pandemic which is the result of SARS-CoV-2 virus has shudder the governments of different nations and their controlling power. At present, no one can claim that no warning was given about new viruses that are able to spread rapidly than previous ones. But those warning were in general sense and not centralised to COVID-19.

In reference to a study, it is assumed that no nation was adequately prepared to cope with such a situation and that health facilities were indeed genuinely inadequate globally.

If we look at the origin of this new deadly coronavirus then we will see that scientist have not been able to establish the origin of COVID-19. But there are few suppositions that it is originated in the seafood market.

It is also a case that questioner on the online platforms, have been sharing suspicions that the virus could have originated from Wuhan, Institute of Virology. The first eminent personality who came out in public and supported the theory, was the US senator Tom Cotton who presented himself on Fox News to allege that the virus could have been originated from the lab.[ii]

It is also speculated on the social media that this virus was an attempt to regulate the population of China. But they are not built on such claims. This lethal virus arose as a threat for the environment with several concerns about human life as-well. The rapid spread of this virus has led to multiple crises that have resulted in different reactions to economic , social and even relationships between the nations.

Is Corona A New Biological Weapon?

On the one hand, in today's era science and technology have made many advancements but on the other hand, these advancements are also used in negative ways just to cause problems in the society or the lives of human. This misuse of scientific researches has possibly made the biological agents as deadly weapons that threatens both national security as-well-as national and global health.

It is faultless to say that the use of biological weapons against humanity is not a new concept as in the past times this tool was used, though the technology and science were not so advanced at that time. At present, these biological agents are used in terrorist acts, even so many world powers assert human rights but they consider the use of biological agents as their legal right. The usage of biological weapons has been advanced with the growth of the science and technology.

Since the time this virus has emerged and the news came into trending the communist government of China started covering up the news of COVID-19. It is true that the Chinese government attempted to block the attempts of those 8 doctors who tried to spread knowledge of this pandemic in advance. Although those cover-up stories are unsubstantial.

It is a general view that there are some sort of diseases which make for the good biological weapon but the matter is hidden that whether COVID-19 falls in such category. Is it so that SARS-CoV-2 is capable of making so called good biological weapon.

There are huge number of countries which conducts biological weapons programs (like Japan, United States, Canada, etc), in reverse there are the countries which have allegations of constantly producing the biological weapons (like Iran, China and North Korea). Mostly pathogens are able to infect living beings and only few are there which form good weapons.

The CDC has designated the highest threat agents used for bioterrorism as Category A. The disease in such category contains the ability to hamper public at large. Many like smallpox, plague were once the main cause of human suffering in many nations.

Now discussing about some of their properties and how SARS-CoV-2 matches their path:

Easily accessible:
Instead of smallpox (which has been pulled out from its roots and is locked up in the freezer at the CDC in Russia and Atlanta) rest of the threats belonging to Category A have a easy grip over them. The case of SARS-CoV-2 is very similar to this as at present it is globally at hand.

Easily manufactured:
Most Category A agents can be easily generated in bulk, so they can be spread over large populations. SARS-CoV-2 types of viruses are more difficult to evolve however they can and can be achieved.

Stable in the surrounding:
This property is referred as a basic property of a biological weapon in order of its use against large population or on a battlefield. Failure is seen in SARS-CoV-2 when this category is talked about. It seems to spread very effectively in indoors but it is incapable of its survival outdoors, mainly when it comes to sunlight.

Small quantity is needed to spread widely:
If a person can be infected with few viruses , fungi or bacteria that can further cause a widespread disease, that is the main focus for making a biological weapon that can easily spread across a wide area. Currently it is unclear how SARS-CoV-2 viruses align to cause infection.

Huge population gets infected:
There should be a key feature of any weapon that is predictability. That means such weapon should be able to cause the infection at large, if only few number of people become ill, then such pathogen is not reliable at all in order to make military plans. SARS-CoV-2 does not match this property. As, a high percentage that appears to be asymptomic up to 45 percent. Also, the age of 28-24 is affected significantly. That means that SARS-CoV-2 viruses cannot be expected to spread disease to enable easy military attack.

Protection against bio-weapon:
the use of such weapons can be unforeseeable. Like if one virus is released in the air and due to some opposite force like wind the same person can be infected. Therefore the presence of vaccines and medicines is the foremost thing. In the case of COVID-19 at present there is no vaccine or drug but few days later Russia announced about a vaccine developed by the nation. Its protection against such infection is different topic. There are many other candidate from different nations testing the vaccines at various stages.

Panic situation:
The weapon can be effective if the aim of the treat alone was to cause destruction. Such impact is caused by SARS-CoV-2, as people now fear to get infected in schools, workplaces, etc.

Contagious:
This is the property which can affect the nation or army which released them. That means it can spread in the nation back which developed it. We can see such situation in SARS-CoV-2 that how worst the things have become and the level of efforts used to control it.

In general, SARS-CoV-2 contains some properties of biological weapon but it also lacks in few. We can say that it cannot be used for military purposes. It has created a situation in which we can see that how damage can a pandemic can cause. Recently we have ongoing suffering due to spread of this virus causing COVID-19 globally.

Few theories that claim that Coronavirus is a bio-weapon:

  1. Coronavirus predicted in a novel:

    As news of coronavirus came into the air, infonauts began to mention a passage from Dean Koontz 's 1981 book
    The Eyes Of Darkness which appears to predict coronavirus outbreak.

    Basically the storyline was about a mother who tries to search his son who unknowingly disappeared on a camping trip. Later it appeared that the boy was in China that too in Wuhan (the place of outbreak of this virus). Also in the other part of the novel a character talks about a virus called WUHAN-400 which was developed at the RDNA Lab situated outside the city of Wuhan. Also this virus was the 400th viable strain of man-made microorganisms created at that research centre.

    The passage in front gave details about the virus as to how it will affect the human body. Because of the accuracy that this 1981 book predicts about the resemblance of
    WUHAN-400 and coronavirus created a situation where it was difficult to be ignorant of.
     
  2. According to an ET Prime Report, a bunch of Chinese scientists were prime suspect of spying in Canada and were removed from access to Canada's National Microbiology Lab (NML) which is popular in area of work on some of the most deadly pathogens.
     
  3. Dr Francis Boyle, the creator of Bio Weapons Act, also claims that:
    the coronavirus is an offensive biological warfare weapon with DNA-genetic engineering.
     
  4. There was a story on social media around March that was claiming that this virus was accidentally released near wild animal market in Wuhan. This story was told by a high-ranking Chinese intelligence officer, who explained that this virus was developed to supress the Hong Kong protest and was later released at the market. Though this story was far away from reality.
     
  5. A $20 trillion case was filled against China in the District Court of Texas for the creation and release, whether accidental or otherwise of the new coronavirus which is causing COVID-19.
    Again, the claims about coronavirus being a biological weapon are unsubstantiated.

    As per the Fox News Report [iii], the virus was basically transmitted from a bat to a lab employee in Wuhan and later on it spread across the city. This mysterious coronavirus was not a bioweapon but the result of the effort of Chinese to compete with the US on identifying and combating viruses.

Recent studies on this new coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2 has shown that the virus was not human-made. There are articles (Zhou et. al (2020)[iv]; Andersen et. al (2020)[v])
that present two possible theories for the origins of this virus:
  1. The virus had undergone natural selection in an animal, before it went across zoonotic transfer (transfer of pathogens between humans and animals), and leaping into a human host.
  2. The virus leaped into a human host from an animal, while going through re-arranging of its genetic that could lead it to attain the properties to start a pandemic.
     
Analysis Of The Situation
This virus has created many unpredictable situations globally in everybody's life. Everybody faces economic and social problems as well. As regards coronavirus as a biological agent, the health department has already made it clear that there is no such evidence supporting such allegations and vigorous misconduct investigation would make it more difficult to understand its origin.

But we cannot ignore a recent claim by a virologist named Dr Li Meng-Yan. During her appearance on ITV , she claimed that she is capable of providing the evidence supporting her argument that the coronavirus is being created in Wuhan, China's laboratory. She alleged that China was well aware of the fact that this virus is a high mutant virus and is capable of spreading from one person to another and if not managed, it can easily establish a pandemic situation. She further alleged that China was the one who tried to supress her voice.

Li said, as cited in the Daily Mail report:

The genome sequence is like a human fingerprint. Based on this you can identify these things. I will (use this) evidence to tell people why this has come from the lab in China, why they are the ones who made it. Anyone, even if you have no biology knowledge, will be able to read it. [vi]

So still we lack in the clarity that whether it is a human made virus or just a natural occurrence.

If we look into the legal consequences of coronavirus being a man-made virus then China will have to pay for it. Also WHO is not mandated to start investigation. If it is so that SARS-CoV-2 is a biological weapon then the matter will be handled by Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) to start an investigation. Basically BWC came into force in 1975 to prevent the use, development and stockpiling of biological weapons, except for peaceful purposes.

But the BWC cannot suo moto begin an investigation, there must be a request made from any of the member state. The thing is that no country will ever raise such request as there will be reputation cost for holding such request without real evidence. Under any investigation procedure the role of evidence is primary and lacking in the production of the evidences is the drawback in starting an investigation.

I, in person feels that the presence of this virus in our surrounding is a well planned act. We are no one to blame any nation but this being a debatable issue we can surely connect the act of China with the claims. We can see in many news about sudden reduction in China's COVID-19 patients and that pool party. At some point or the other it brings a question in the mind that China is hiding something, either it is faking the numbers and hiding the real number of cases or it is having the cure to this mysterious virus. It need the further research in order to be sure about the origin of the virus. Though it seems to be an early stage to say that whether there is some hands in production of this deadly virus or is it just a nature's process, but we cannot just ignore any claim.

We have to be ready to fight against this virus and protect ourselves.

End-Notes:
  1. Barry R. Schneider; Biological Weapon; Britannica; https://www.britannica.com/technology/biological-weapon
  2. A Bioweapon Or Effects Of 5g? 7 Conspiracy Theories Around Coronavirus That Will Shock You; The Economic Times; Updated: 28 Feb 2020, 03:57 PM IST
    https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/is-covid-19-a-bioweapon-five-conspiracy-theories-around-coronavirus-that-will-shock-you/origins-in-the-seafood-market/slideshow/74388529.cms
  3. Bret Baier, Gregg Re; Source Believe Coronavirus Outbreak Originated In Wuhan Lab As Part Of China's Efforts To Compete With US; Fox News; Published- 15 April, 2020 https://www.foxnews.com/politics/coronavirus-wuhan-lab-china-compete-us-sources
  4. A Pneumonia Outbreak Associated With A New Coronavirus Of Probable Bat Origin; Nature; Published- 03 Feb, 2020; https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2012-7
  5. The proximal origin of SARs-CoV-2; Nature Medicine; Published- 17 March, 2020; https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0820-9
  6. Prashasti Awasthi; COVID-19 Was Made In Lad, Says Chinese Virologist; The Hindu; Published On- 14 September, 2020; https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/world/covid-19-was-made-in-a-lab-says-chinese-virologist/article32598502.ece
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Shriya Mishra, 4thYear, B.A.LLB(H) - Amity University, Lucknow Campus
Email- [email protected]

Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: OT28611553460-12-1020

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