Coronavirus

COVID Has Shown World What 'Biological Weapon Could Do'

A chemical weapons expert says the Defence Secretary’s warning of growing threats is a "wake-up call".

A specialist in chemical and biological weapons has applauded Ben Wallace for speaking out on their growing threat to the UK.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, the former military commander in charge of the Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment, says the Defence Secretary was right to point out the developing issue in a recent interview with The Times.

Identifying unorthodox threats can reduce the risk of "catastrophic danger", said the expert, who believes the Government will reinvest in defence against biological weapons following the coronavirus outbreak.

"When he [Ben Wallace] was Security Minister, he warned of chemical attacks before the Salisbury attack, so he really knows what he’s talking about," said Mr de Bretton-Gordon.

The use of a chemical nerve agent in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury in 2018 lives in recent UK memory, but the expert referenced the continued use of similar attacks in the Middle East.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was also poisoned by a nerve agent last year and the Defence Secretary is now warning that the internet provides a "turbo boost" to extremist groups and other actors looking to develop weapons.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has warned the internet is boosting chemical and biological threats (Picture: MOD).

Mr de Bretton-Gordon said it is now easier to purchase toxic chemicals and find out how to use them from a "terror perspective".

Information on the manipulation of pathogens to create biological weapons is also on the rise in recent years, he explained.

"I think this is a bit of a wake-up call," said the former military commander on Ben Wallace’s comments, "to make sure that we are resilient" across the UK – including emergency services.

"Although it might sound terrifying to the British public, once you identify a threat and put in mitigation regimes, you can make the likelihood of the causing catastrophic danger that much less," said Mr de Bretton-Gordon.

He welcomed the World Health Organisation’s investigation into the source of the COVID-19 outbreak, which recently revealed the virus was "extremely unlikely" to have been leaked from a laboratory in the city of Wuhan.

Adding some perspective to Mr Wallace’s warnings, the expert added that the pandemic "has shown everybody in this country and the world what, potentially, a biological weapon can do".