China will construct up to seven new laboratories to deal with dangerous diseases, and one will be just a few hours from the Russian border.
Currently, China only has one facility – in Wuhan, the original epicenter of Covid-19.
Before 2026, the country plans to build between five and seven more laboratories, in different regions, each with their own specialization. In Harbin, the lab will deal with zoonotic infections, including Covid-19 and other diseases transmitted from animals to humans. As well as coronavirus, China has recently seen a small outbreak of the bubonic plague, in the north of the country.
“Harbin is the center of Heilongjiang province, where many natural foci of tick-borne encephalitis virus, foot and mouth disease virus and plague are located,” said Sergei Netesov, a scientist at Novosibirsk State University. “The location of such a laboratory there is logical and justified.”
China’s new research centers will be built to fit the BSL-4 requirements, the highest level of biosafety precautions. BSL-4 laboratories are often used for research on easily transmitted pathogens, such as Ebola. Precautions include sophisticated air filtration systems and furniture and appliances without seams and rough surfaces. All work is performed by personnel in pressurized suits, and staff must go through a chemical decontamination shower before leaving.
Following the Covid-19 outbreak, some conspiracy theorists suggested that the pandemic could be the result of a coronavirus leak from a laboratory, with US President Donald Trump declaring he had seen evidence that gave him a “high degree of confidence” that the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab.