Move to curb bioattacks

ANYONE using a biological agent as a potential weapon faces life behind bars and a S$1mil (RM2.3mil) fine under proposed new Singaporean laws. 

The accidental release of a highly infectious bug from a research laboratory would also result in severe penalties. 

The Health Ministry has drafted a new Biological Agents and Toxins Bill to tackle the threat of bioterrorism and biomedical research laboratory accidents. 

The new law would regulate everything from the possession and import to the transport and disposal of biological agents and toxins. This would prevent them being misused and shield the public from any exposure. 

Health Ministry medical services director Prof K. Satku said: “SARS was a strong message to us that there are still deadly pathogens out there.”  

After the outbreak was quelled, there were still SARS infections linked to lax safety procedures in laboratories here, and in Taiwan and China. This reinforced the ministry’s resolve to set up a comprehensive biosafety network to protect lab workers and the community at large, said Prof Satku. 

“Knowing what to do is not good enough. They must internalise these things so it becomes a habit,” Prof Satku said. 

So, for example, operators of facilities handling high-risk agents must set up biosafety committees, and their labs need to be certified. 

The ministry would perform regular audits to ensure laws are followed and safety standards are met. – The Straits Times/ANN  

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