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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A security group warns that the COVID-19 pandemic could inspire terrorists to turn to bioweapons.

Why it matters: New technologies like gene-editing have the potential to make future bioweapons deadlier and easier to create, while COVID-19 demonstrates just how vulnerable the world is to any kind of biological threat.

What's happening: On May 25 the Committee on Counter-Terrorism at the Council of Europe issued a statement arguing that the pandemic had raised the risk from bioterrorism.

  • "The intentional use of a pathogen or other biological agent for the purpose of terrorism may prove highly effective and cause damage — both human and economic — on a far grander scale than 'traditional' terrorist attacks," the committee wrote.

Be smart: Scientists overwhelmingly agree that there is little evidence to suggest that the novel coronavirus was engineered in a lab, rather than emerging naturally from an animal source. But with over 350,000 deaths and trillions in likely economic damage, COVID-19 showed what even a relatively mild but contagious new virus could do.

  • A deliberately engineered and released pathogen would likely be far worse, as I noted in Axios earlier this month. That's because new tools permit the creation of viruses that could be deadlier and more contagious than anything emerging from nature — and because a bioweapon could be released repeatedly, foiling efforts at containment.
  • A 2018 pandemic simulation featuring an engineered bioweapon resulted in a fictional global outbreak that killed 150 million people.

What to watch: In its statement, the Council of Europe committee urged a coordinated international response to bioterrorism, including "a common surveillance system capable of detecting suspicious cases."

Reality check: Even though the novel coronavirus is almost certainly natural in its origins — blame the bats, probably — the global response has been anything but coordinated. It's even more difficult to imagine the world coming together in response to a biological threat that was released deliberately.

Go deeper: The coronavirus pandemic reawakens bioweapon fears

Go deeper

Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

Updated 28 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in DecemberAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  4. Education: U.S. public school enrollment drops as pandemic persists — National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
  5. Cities: Los Angeles County issues stay-at-home order, limits gatherings.
  6. World: London police arrest dozens during anti-lockdown protests — Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
Sep 7, 2020 - World

India's coronavirus cases surge to second highest in the world

A health worker collects a swab sample from a girl for coronavirus testing at New Ashok Nagar, in New Delhi, India, in August. Photo: Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

India is now second only to the U.S. for coronavirus cases after surpassing Brazil for infections on Monday morning.

By the numbers: India has reported more than 4.2 million COVID-19 infections and Brazil has confirmed over 4.1 million cases, per Johns Hopkins data. However, Brazil has the world's second-highest death toll, with the virus claiming the lives of 126,650 Brazilians.

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