Terror groups may use virulent COVID-19 strains to strike, warns UN

New Delhi: Terror groups may gain access to virulent strains of the novel coronavirus and use it to launch a bio-terror attack, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned.

After a closed-door discussion at the UN Security Council on Thursday, Guterres in a brief press statement said: “While the COVID-19 pandemic is first and foremost a health crisis, its implications are much more far-reaching. The pandemic also poses a significant threat to the maintenance of international peace and security — potentially leading to an increase in social unrest and violence that would greatly undermine our ability to fight the disease.”

Guterres spoke by video conference at the UNSC meeting on the COVID-19 impact. It was the first discussion of the UNSC on the pandemic.

Terrorist groups, he said, may see a window of opportunity to strike while the attention of most governments was turned towards the coronavirus pandemic.

“The weaknesses and lack of preparedness exposed by this pandemic,” the UN chief said, adding: “Provide a window onto how a bio-terrorist attack might unfold – and may increase its risks.”

“Non-state groups,” he warned “could gain access to virulent strains that could pose similar devastation to societies around the globe”.

Guterres said that in some conflict settings, the uncertainty created by the pandemic may create incentives for some actors to promote further division and turmoil.

“This could lead to an escalation of violence and possibly devastating miscalculations, which could further entrench ongoing wars and complicate efforts to fight the pandemic,” he added.

On March 23, the Secretary-General had called for an immediate global ceasefire, urging all warring parties in conflict zones to suspend violence in view of the devastating effects of the coronavirus and the global efforts to combat the pandemic.

On Thursday, the UN chief said the engagement of the Security Council will be “critical to mitigate the peace and security implications of the COVID-19 pandemic”.


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