Despite months of investigation and analysis, there is still no consensus on how the Covid-19 virus originated in China. Whether it originated naturally or in a Wuhan BSL-4 bio lab may never be known for certain, especially due to the extreme measures employed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to cover up the virus’ origins and initial spread.
Nonetheless, notes Professor Nayef Al-Rodhan, a neuroscientist and geo-strategist at Oxford University in CapX, “the plausibility of the laboratory theory, and the huge impact of the coronavirus itself, raise serious questions about the kind of [research] work being done on diseases, their potential dual-use as bioweapons and the ability for governments to stop them.”
I argue that had Covid been a far more lethal bioweapon, the U.S. would have failed in its biodefense. This has not been a presidential failure, or a local or state politician failure or a CDC failure – it is a systemic failure. The U.S. needs to ramp up its biodefense game in every way; a whole-of-government and society approach.
As I have previously written, Covid should be serving as a real-world pandemic response ‘wargame’ to ensure that the U.S. can face any far deadlier and more severe biothreats in the future. Sadly, the results of this wargame are not good.
The U.S. was clearly not ready to respond to a serious pandemic or a bioweapons attack, and neither was much of the world or international bodies. Some, like the World Health Organization (WHO), appear to have actively aided China in its Covid coverup. Others were simply dazed and confused.
Identifying the origins of any pathogen or bioweapon has proven so elusive that enemies of the U.S. can see this an increasingly viable attack vector that would avoid attribution, and hence U.S. retaliation. As Al-Rodhan says, “The key and frightening takeaway from this outbreak is that tracing the exact origins of a virus is very difficult. This bodes poorly for future outbreaks, whether accidental or deliberate.”
“Were we in the future to face a man-made virus – likely to be much more dangerous since created with malicious intent – the issue of locating its origins and stifling its spread would not just be a public health priority, but a national and international security crisis,” notes Al-Rodhan.
The response both internationally, and domestically in the U.S. has been chaotic and contradictory at all levels, from the UN to national governments to states, cities, and municipalities in the U.S. In America, ideology and politics have played an outsized role which pandemic response plans do not seem to have anticipated and could severely hinder any future response to a far more serious pandemic or bio-attack.
Al-Rodhan adds that “Worse still has been the distinct lack of cooperation between states in tracking and tracing the virus and sharing information. The fact that a pandemic is global … does not seem to have stopped some government insisting that information should remain national or regional at best.”
In the U.S., contact tracing efforts, and other responses that would be needed in case of a serious bioweapons attack, have been spotty at best. U.S. government agencies involved in biodefense must use this current Covid ‘wargame’ to quickly develop ‘lessons learned’ and ramp up new contingency plans for a future bio threat.
But – as we have seen, having plans is not enough. The U.S. must also return to conducting civil defense drills – at the local, state, and national level – that include biodefense. Only that way can we ensure the plans work, avoid the mistakes of today, and defend against a worse threat tomorrow.