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Taiwan's COVID countermeasures for visitors linked to biowar fears by Indian media

Indian news source claims China is 'weaponizing bacteria bombs' in preparation for invasion

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Anti-epidemic staff at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. 

Anti-epidemic staff at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport.  (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan is preparing for a biowar with China, according to an IndiaToday report on Saturday (Aug. 20) — though the writer may have been discombobulated by the nation's strict anti-COVID countermeasures for visitors.

According to the author, “China is indulging in biological warfare” and “weaponising bacteria bombs” to use on Taiwan. This is given as the reason why there are so many strict COVID protocols in place for travelers to the country.

These were said to include RT-PCR tests, filling in health declaration forms, and having to stay in quarantine hotels. There was also an “announcement regarding food products strictly prohibited because of fear of any virus entering Taiwanese territory," according to the IndiaToday's "Reporter's Diary":

“Why is Taipei still following these stringent COVID protocols when the whole world has relaxed regulations? That is because Taiwan is afraid that China is indulging in biological warfare and according to some reports, weaponizing ‘bacteria bombs.’”

The problem with this rather breathless statement and video tweet is that it likely refers in part to Taiwan’s ban on the import of pork products to prevent the spread of African Swine Fever (ASF). A ramped-up crackdown was imposed Thursday (Aug. 18) to prevent mooncakes made of pork from entering the country, since they are popular gifts for the upcoming Moon Festival.

It is true that Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has rolled out strong anti-COVID measures to prevent the spread of the disease. The protocols have been in place for some time and while their strictness has been criticized in some quarters, linking COVID countermeasures with bacteria bombs and biowars appears to be a big stretch, with little factual basis for it.

This is not to say that the fear of a biological attack is unreasonable. Naturally, Taiwan has prepared for biological attacks from China because they are a possibility.

According to Nikkei Asia, Taiwan’s annual Han Huang military exercises in 2021 included a biological agent containment exercise in Tainan. This prompted a scary but unfounded headline from the India Blooms News Service that, “Taiwan is afraid that China is weaponizing ‘bacteria bombs’” — which is presumably where the IndiaToday reporter found their inspiration.

The original article followed up with unsubstantiated rumors that attempted to link a “Wuhan-based lab” in China with COVID and escaped bugs, technicians being bitten by mice, and fears that “Beijing has weaponized a number of deadly pathogens including coronaviruses.”

The U.K. tabloid Express made similar claims, based on an April 2021, U.S. state department report warning that China had in the past “weaponized ricin, botulinum toxins, and the causative agents of anthrax, cholera, plague, and tularemia.”