Britain is at growing risk of chemical and biological attack due to ‘breakdown of world order’ as states ignore international rules, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace says
- Defence Secretary warned ‘breakdown of world order’ causing increased risk
- Wallace claimed there are concerns some states are ignoring international rules
- Said internet could be to blame due to information about chemical weapons
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Britain is at growing risk of a chemical and biological attack due to a ‘breakdown of world order’ as states ignore international rules.
Wallace suggested the internet could be to blame for the increasing threat, amid fears those set on using chemical weapons against their opponents can find a wealth of information online.
He said Syria using chemical weapons on its own people was one example of such a breakdown.
There are now also growing concerns that states may be passing on information to proxies or terrorist groups, The Times reports.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured) warned there is a growing risk of international chemical and biological attacks
Wallace said the threat was increasing due to a ‘breakdown of world order’, citing examples such as Syria using chemical weapons against its own people. Pictured: Top secret government laboratory Porton Down near Salisbury, Wiltshire
The Defence Secretary cited the Novichok poisonings in Salisbury as a further example of the threat nerve agents pose.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 69, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with the Russian nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury in March 2018.
Both survived, though Mr Skripal, who was jailed in Russia in 2006 for selling secrets to MI6, required a tracheotomy and now breathes through a tube.
Wallace said: ‘There has been a worry that some states think it is acceptable to use that type of method to carry out or further their aims.’
Two Russian nationals were accused of travelling to the Wiltshire city to murder Mr Skripal with Novichok.
The Skripals survived the attack, but the incident later claimed the life of Dawn Sturgess after she came into contact with a perfume bottle believed to have been used in the attack and then discarded.
Ms Sturgess’ partner, Charlie Rowley, was left seriously ill but recovered.
The Defence Secretary said the attack in Salisbury demonstrated the need for more police officers to be trained to respond to chemical and biological attacks.
Wallace suggested the internet could be to blame for the increasing threat as people cam find a wealth of information about chemical weapons online. Pictured: Boris Johnson during a visit to Porton Down in November
The MP for Wyre and Preston North’s concerns were echoed by Professor Tim Atkins, an expert at the Government’s top secret Porton Down facility near Salisbury, Wiltshire.
The microbiologist, who has worked at the secretive laboratory for more than 24 years, said biological weapons are only just in the beginning stages of being invented.
But he fears it will be difficult to know currently how they will evolve – whether they could be used to make beneficial changes or used as a threat.
His words come as he also revealed this week that Porton Down researchers are trialling smart watch and wearable tech that is able to detect coronavirus.
Scientists in the labs are working on a new project which aims to use the data collected from technology, such as heart rate, movement and blood oxygen levels, to help identify patterns in those with the virus.
While the study is in its early stages, it is hoped that if successful it could identify coronavirus before someone feels ill.
Porton Down is working on a new project which aims to use data collected by technology, such as smart watches, to tell if someone has caught coronavirus
The research aims to catch the virus early, using data collected by sensors on the technology to identify patterns in those with Covid. The research, if successful, could detect coronavirus before someone feels ill. Pictured: Professor Tim Atkins speaking at Porton Down
The Defence, Science and Technology lab, has also been working on developing an artificial finger to research how effectively the virus transfers from a surface on to a finger.
It forms part of its wider work looking at the effectiveness of disinfectants.
Porton Down is also used to prepare the British military in the event of a possible chemical or biological attack.
If troops are headed for areas likely to use such methods, they attend the facility where they packed into an airtight space which has non-lethal tear gas pumped into it.
The gas was developed by researchers at the facility, which is the only place in the UK permitted to make chemical weapons, during the Cold War.
They have to stay within the room for a certain amount of time before they are allowed to put their masks on.
As part of their training they also learn how use general service respirators.
Previously there had been discussions to introduce anthrax vaccinations to all British troops but Wallace has ruled it out for now.
In 2018, then Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson considered the measures amid growing tensions between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Previously there had been discussions to introduce anthrax vaccinations to all British troops but Wallace has ruled it out for now
Anthrax is a deadly disease that comes in spray or powder form and is particularly lethal when inhaled.
It causes flu-like symptoms for a few days, which are usually followed by severe breathing problems, shock and often death.
Porton Down is the only location in the UK where people are permitted to make chemical weapons, such as nerve agents. The substances never leave the facility.
It houses and studies some of the deadliest pathogens in the world, such as anthrax, plague and Ebola.
At the facility they create small scale chemicals to ensure methods developed to ensure detection systems are working efficiently.
Scientists from Porton Down were brought in to identify the nerve agent, later found to be Novichok, during the Salisbury poisonings in June 2018.
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