India on US spy agencies radar over coronavirus fears

By: News Desk      Published: 07:23 PM, 28 Feb, 2020
India on US spy agencies radar over coronavirus fears
Chairman of Patients' Welfare Association Dr. Rudranath Bhattacharya, along with a nurse, place a protective facemask on a patient coming with others for an awareness event about the COVID-19 coronavirus at the Siliguri District Government hospital in Siliguri. AFP

The United States spy agencies are monitoring the spread of coronavirus across the world — with a focus on India — as officials grapple with concerns over the country’s ability to handle a widespread outbreak.

India has confirmed just three cases of COVID-19 in the country, while the its government says 23,531 people are under observation, The Economic Times reported.

But Reuters news agency has quoted sources familiar with the matter that there are concerns about how the country would cope with an epidemic of the deadly virus.

Intelligence agencies are also looking to Iran, where 245 people have been infected — including Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi— and 30 have died, so far the highest number of fatalities outside China.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday the U.S. is “deeply concerned” Tehran may have covered up details about the spread of the infection. A U.S. government source called Iran’s response ineffective because the government only has minimal capabilities to respond to the outbreak.

The U.S. agencies are also concerned about the weak ability of governments in some developing countries to handle an outbreak, according to another source, the news service reported. Spy agencies have briefed The House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on the virus.

“The Committee has received a briefing from the IC (intelligence community) on coronavirus, and continues to receive updates on the outbreak on a daily basis,” a House Intelligence Committee official told Reuters. “Addressing the threat has both national security and economic dimensions, requiring a concerted government-wide effort and the IC is playing an important role in monitoring the spread of the outbreak, and the worldwide response.”

Intelligence agencies are now principally responsible for monitoring the spread of coronavirus and assessing the responses of governments around the world, according to Reuters.

A source told the outlet that U.S. agencies would use various intelligence tools, ranging from undercover informants to electronic eavesdropping tools, to track the impact of the virus.

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