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Opinion
The Editors

Lab Safety Demands New Attention and Global Cooperation

The origin of Covid-19 is unclear. The need for stronger biosafety protocols isn’t.

High-security labs are proliferating around the world. 

High-security labs are proliferating around the world. 

Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

U.S. President Joe Biden has tasked his intelligence agencies to investigate whether the novel coronavirus escaped from a Chinese laboratory. This may or may not turn up something new. But the world can be sure of one thing right now: Errors with potentially devastating consequences are within the realm of possibility. That should be enough to make reviewing and improving biosafety standards worldwide a top priority.

The evidence that an error or leak at the Wuhan Institute of Virology released Covid-19 into the world remains circumstantial. But investigators haven’t yet found the pathway by which the virus may have crossed over from animals. Plainly, both possibilities need to be investigated thoroughly — and China should help in this effort more eagerly than it has so far.