US President Joe Biden on Tuesday set in motion a plan to counter biological threats and prepare for the next pandemic after the COVID-19 coronavirus caused more than 1 million deaths in the United States.
Biden signed three documents on biodefense se-curity aimed at establishing a strategy and an im-plementation plan to gird for the next time a virus spreads widely in the United States.
The National Biodefense Strategy, released by the White House, said the United States must address the “accidental release of biological agents, and threats posed by terrorist groups or adversaries seek-ing to use biological weapons.”
A memorandum signed by Biden sets up a policy coordination structure for biodefense among gov-ernment agencies with oversight by the White House.
It directs the US intelligence community to monitor for threats and ensure the United States “continuously adapts to this evolving threat land-scape” by holding annual exercises, a senior admini-stration official said in describing the new plan.
The plan calls for Congress to approve an $88 billion request over five years for pandemic prepar-edness and biodefense. The request has been stalled in Congress as lawmakers bicker over government spending.
The goal is to “prevent epidemics and biological incidents before they happen, whether they’re natu-rally occurring, deliberate or accidental,” the official said.
Questions about the origin of the coronavirus have never been fully resolved. The United States has suspicions that the virus originated in China despite Beijing’s denials. The plan establishes a goal of “recruiting, training and sustaining a robust, permanent cadre of health workers in all 50 states” to confront biological threats, the official said.—Reuters