Cabinet approves defence plan against biological attacks

By Dita Asiedu

During a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the Czech government approved further security measures to be taken in response to the US-led attacks against terrorist targets in Afghanistan. The Defence Ministry was given the power to authorise the shooting down of any high-jacked aircraft over Czech airspace. While experts agree that total protection against biological weapons is not possible, the Czech cabinet approved a defense plan against the possible threat of a biological attack. With special stress on prevention, the plan includes gathering information on possible threats and the necessary legislative changes involved. Specialists and rescue workers are to receive special training and the general public is to be informed on measures to be taken in the event of an attack. The health ministry is to expand its stock of vaccines and the number of available laboratories. The cabinet had discussed the possible threat of biological warfare prior to the terrorist attacks in the USA a month ago and in light of the current situation, is intensifying the country's emergency procedures. Dita Asiedu spoke with private consultant, Ivan Gabal: "I do not think that we are unable in dealing with this type of a situation. What the government developed was standard legislation measures, plans for systemic changes to adapt to this type of threat. I think that the question is how capable we are in checking the public water supply systems and protecting them. I think, from this point of view, we keep a relatively good standard. Obviously, no one knows what the result will be if something like this happens." The Defence Ministry will have the power to authorise the shooting down of any high-jacked aircraft in Czech airspace. What implications does that have? "The main implication is that we are now able to deal with this situation. It was previously not clear who was to take the responsibility. As you can imagine, to shoot down a civilian airliner if high-jacked by terrorists, is an extremely demanding task so it was necessary to develop a clear allocation of powers." Radio Prague took to the streets to find out how the general public feels about the possible threat of a biological attack: "A biological attack is pretty much inconceivable. It would be barbaric for someone to do it so I can't think of some country or group to launch such an attack. It's good that they have the foresight to think about this but for it to actually happen would be mind-blowing." "I think that the war will most likely be chemical. I hope it won't happen, but in the back of my mind there is a voice warning me that something could happen, I am worried about the threats. I don't know how to put it, I'm scared, that's all. I do sympathize with the Americans. I understand that they have to react to the terrible things the terrorists did to them. But all this is going to involve innocent people. This really is a complicated situation""I live in the country. We are about 30 miles away from a big town. I believe we are safe but I hope we'll get home in one piece."