As the coronavirus spreads around the world, we can only now see the destructive path it has taken and the devastating effects the virus has on economies and lives alike. The damage of the coronavirus has been “quick and enormous – much greater than 9/11 – and worldwide”, with the virus destroying “economies, governments, and technical infrastructures of the world’s most advanced economies”.
The responses to the pandemic have been largely ineffective, slow, and have caused great amounts of chaos. Seeing the effects of a relatively easy to obtain and cheap virus strain could inspire terrorists or military planners in various countries to build their own bioweapons. As such, scientists and public health experts warn that the next bioweapons attack could be intentional.
As the world struggles to control “a naturally occurring bug, there are still massive germ warfare stocks all around the globe”. There are questions of how we can be certain that Russia followed the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972 and destroyed their stockpiles? Then there are added concerns about China and North Korea, both countries that never ratified the treaty. In addition to the biological weapons nation-states could possess, one must think of the nonstate actors, such as terrorists, who have “no land to defend and nothing to lose”. A bioweapon is cheap (it would cost less than $100,000) and “represents the perfect asymmetric warfare strategy”1. With only some secondhand lab equipment, “few thousand dollars’ worth of equipment and a college biology education under his belt [anyone] could manufacture bugs that would make Ebola look like a walk around the park”2.
Terrorists could plant a variety of potential biological weapons, including anthrax, smallpox, tularemia, or botulism virus, all of which are relatively easily accessible, in infected human agents and then have it pop up in random, small patches around the world. This, along with added media speculation, would leave “everyone confused and guessing”1. Grady Means, a former White House policy assistant to Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, argues that the results would be predictable, resulting in economic, political, and social mayhem. Therefore, the current coronavirus pandemic provides a blueprint for the effectiveness of a deliberate attack and vulnerability of not only America, but also the world, for biowarfare.
While this may seem far-fetched, it is our new reality. A US government official said that “we are in the realm now where biological weapons are really becoming possible…People have talked about [gene editing in bioweapons] for 50 years. … It is not science fiction anymore. Literally in the last five years we’ve crossed that threshold”. However, again, a major problem when planning for such events is that “public health is largely invisible, underappreciated, and as a result underfunded” as Umair A. Shah, a top Texas health official, said in October.
If there is any good that can come from this pandemic, it is that “public health is not something to take for granted”2. To protect its people and prevent such a tragedy from occurring, the United States needs to “start pouring the kind of money and attention into systems like the global surveillance that it does for the F-35 jet fighter”, pay more attention to the warnings of public health and biodefense organizations, strengthen our ties with global health networks like the WHO, and see public health as national security. These steps are crucial because, while there are ways to stop it, if it is left unchecked, “humanity might not end with a bang but with a feeble cough”2.
 Means, Grady. “The Coronavirus: Blueprint for Bioterrorism.” The Hill, The Hill, 9 Mar. 2020, thehill.com/opinion/national-security/485921-the-coronavirus-blueprint-for-bioterrorism
 Brooks, Max. “The Next Pandemic Might Not Be Natural.” Foreign Policy, 20 Apr. 2020, foreignpolicy.com/2020/04/20/coronavirus-pandemic-bioterrorism-preparedness
 Bertrand, Natasha, and Daniel Lippman. “’It Is Not Science Fiction Anymore’: Coronavirus Exposes U.S. Vulnerability to Biowarfare.” POLITICO, 19 Mar. 2020, www.politico.com/news/2020/03/19/coronavirus-biowarfare-terror-136194