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Fact Check: Did Japan’s Nobel laureate professor say COVID-19 is man-made virus?
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https://www.kaskus.co.id/thread/5ea8b759facb953d144c25d2/fact-check-did-japans-nobel-laureate-professor-say-covid-19-is-man-made-virus

Fact Check: Did Japan’s Nobel laureate professor say COVID-19 is man-made virus?

Fact Check: Did Japan’s Nobel laureate professor say COVID-19 is man-made virus?
By Amritha Mohan
Published on Apr 25, 2020 at 2:58 pm

Fact Check: Did Japan’s Nobel laureate professor say COVID-19 is man-made virus?



Hyderabad: Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a statement claimed to be from a Nobel-laureate Japanese professor has been doing the rounds on social media. The message, which has been going viral over social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook, quotes the 2018 Nobel Laureate and Japanese professor Tasuku Honjo, saying that “COVID-19 is not natural.”

The message says, “Japan’s professor of Physiology or Medicine, Professor Dr Tasuku Honjo, created a sensation in front of the media today by saying that the corona virus is not natural. If it is natural, it wouldn’t have adversely affected entire world like this. bcoz, as per nature, Temperature is different in different countries. if it is natural, it wud’ve adversely affected only those countries hvg same temperature as China. instead, It is spreading in a country like Switzerland, in the same way it is spreading in the desert areas. whereas if it were natural, it would hv spread in cold places, but died in hot places. I have done 40 years of research on animals and viruses. It is not natural. It is manufactured and the virus is completely artificial. I have worked for 4 years in the Wuhan laboratory of China. I am fully acquainted w/all the staff of that laboratory. I have been phoning them all, after the Corona accident. But, all their phones r dead for last 3 months. It is now u/stood that all these lab technicians have died.

Based on all my knowledge and research till date, I can say this with 100% confidence that Corona is not natural. It has not come from bats. China has manufactured it. if what I am saying today is proved false now or even after my death, the government can w/draw my Nobel Prize. but China is lying and this truth will one day be revealed to everyone.”

This message has been spreading on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.



Fact Check:
Fact Check conducted by NewsMeter showed that the above claims are FALSE. In context, Tasuku Honjo, is a Nobel-prize winning Japanese professor from Kyoto University, Japan. He won the Nobel prize for medicine in the year 2018, along with James Allison, for their discovery on cancer therapy. When NewsMeter reached out to the professor, he refuted all the claims. In an e-mail, Alok Kumar, a Ph.D student working under the professor, gave out this statement on behalf of the professor that “Prof. Honjo never gave any such statement. Each and every sentence of this post is completely false and has no connection with truth. Prof. Honjo never worked in Wuhan laboratory. He never called there. He did not work on virus origin and functions and other related issues. All the contents are just concocted and nothing else.”


As claimed in the viral message, Professor Tasuku Honjo has not worked in any laboratory in Wuhan, China, for the past four years. His biography, accessed from Kyoto University’s official website, showed that the professor has been teaching full-time in Japan’s Kyoto University, from 1984 to 2005. Currently, he is a professor at the Department of Immunology and Genomic Medicine, Kyoto University.

Secondly, a Google search on media reports after April 22 (the date of the message) regarding the statement ‘coronavirus is not natural’ did not yield any results leading to professor Tasuku Hanjo. In fact, the professor had given an interview to Nikkei Asian Review, a news portal based in Japan, published on April 10, 2020. The professor said in the interview that “the illness originated in China, but the country will be the first to recover from it, too. I can’t say whether this will boost Chinese influence or whether the world will shun China, but there’s a possibility that the global order will shift after the outbreak.” The professor has not mentioned anything regarding COVID-19 being a man-made virus.

However, there are media reports of a Nobel laureate French virologist claiming that the virus is man-made. “Interviewed on a French news channel, the co-discoverer of the AIDS virus who bagged the 2008 Nobel award in medicine alleged “the presence of elements of HIV and germ of malaria in the genome of coronavirus is highly suspect and the characteristics of the virus could not have arisen naturally,”the Times of India reported.

Thirdly, a Twitter search of Prof. Tasuku Honjo’s account led to a tweet that said, “I do not know for what purpose the coronavirus has been produced, but I can definitely say that it is man-made.” The Twitter handle claims to be of Tasuku Honjo, but however it has not been verified. A statement from Prof. Honjo confirmed that “The twitter handle you mentioned does not belong to Prof. Tasuku Honjo. it is created by someone possibly with malicious intentions. Please stop this fake news.” Further searches also found that the account was created in April 2020, with only two tweets since April 24, which suggests that it is a fake account.

Therefore, the viral claim of the Japanese professor saying ‘COVID-19 is not natural’ is FALSE.

Claim 1: Japanese professor Tasuku Honjo says COVID-19 is “manufactured and the virus is completely artificial”

Claim 2: Japanese Professor has spent 4 years in Wuhan Lab.

Claimed by: Social media posts

Result: Both the claims are FALSE, since Prof. Honjo has refuted the claims himself. There are no media reports on Prof. Tasuku Honjo saying that COVID-19 is manufactured. Further, the professor has not spent four years in Wuhan’s laboratory, as his biography shows. The Twitter handle that claims to be his is fake.

Also read:
Fact Check: No, Modi government is not offering Rs 15,000 to every individual


Amritha Mohan
Amritha Mohan is a reporter at the NewsMeter. Shortly after completing her Master's in Communication at the University of Hyderabad, she began teaching courses on media and culture as a guest lecturer at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong. Amritha has previously interned with news organisations such as Greater Kashmir and Newslaundry. A lover of travel and photography, she spends most of her time planning road trips to the North-East. Nothing makes her happier than a green turf and a team to play football with. She primarily reports on education, tech, human-interesting and critical features.

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Did Nobel Laureate Tasuku Honjo Say COVID-19 Was ‘Man-Made’?
Unlike new viruses, quotes can be manufactured with ease.
DAN EVON
PUBLISHED 27 APRIL 2020

Fact Check: Did Japan’s Nobel laureate professor say COVID-19 is man-made virus?

Fact Check: Did Japan’s Nobel laureate professor say COVID-19 is man-made virus?

Throughout the early months of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease pandemic, we repeatedly came across variations of the claim that COVID-19 was manufactured at a laboratory in Wuhan, China. While dozens of medical experts have already debunked this idea (the evidence indicates that the virus evolved naturally), this bit of misinformation continued to spread on social media.

In April 2020, for instance, a lengthy text message started to circulate on Facebook and WhatsApp that supposedly included a quote from Nobel laureate Dr. Tasuku Honjo in which he ostensibly said that COVID-19 was “invented” at a lab in Wuhan, China:

Fact Check: Did Japan’s Nobel laureate professor say COVID-19 is man-made virus?

Honjo never worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the quotes in this post are fictitious, and China did not “invent” this virus. But in this message’s defense, it does accurately state that Honjo won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2018.

Honjo is currently the Deputy Director-General and Distinguished Professor at the Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study. A biography on the KUIAS website lists the various institutes and academies Honjo has been associated with since the 1960s. The Wuhan Institute of Virology is not included.

We searched for the quotes included in this viral text but could not find them reported by any credible sources. In fact, it appears that this quotation exists solely in social media posts. We did find a Twitter account using the handle @TasukuHonjo that expressed similar sentiments as the above-displayed quotes, but it doesn’t appear that this account actually belongs to the Nobel Prize winner

Fact Check: Did Japan’s Nobel laureate professor say COVID-19 is man-made virus?


Claim
Nobel laureate Dr. Tasuku Honjo said that COVID-19 was "man-made" at a lab in Wuhan, China.


Origin
As governments fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Snopes is fighting an “infodemic” of rumors and misinformation, and you can help. Read our coronavirus fact checks. Submit any questionable rumors and “advice” you encounter. Become a Founding Member to help us hire more fact-checkers. And, please, follow the CDC or WHO for guidance on protecting your community from the disease.
Throughout the early months of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease pandemic, we repeatedly came across variations of the claim that COVID-19 was manufactured at a laboratory in Wuhan, China. While dozens of medical experts have already debunked this idea (the evidence indicates that the virus evolved naturally), this bit of misinformation continued to spread on social media.

In April 2020, for instance, a lengthy text message started to circulate on Facebook and WhatsApp that supposedly included a quote from Nobel laureate Dr. Tasuku Honjo in which he ostensibly said that COVID-19 was “invented” at a lab in Wuhan, China:

The text of the post reads:

It’s as damning an indictment as it could be stretched to. China is accused of inventing the Coronavirus in its Wuhan laboratory with whatever intent that might have prompted the venture.

A Nobel laureate Japanese academician, Dr. Tasuku Honjo (pictured below), who had shared a 2018 Nobel prize for his outstanding works in the study of immunology, had revealed the reasons for blaming China for inventing the deadly virus that had already infected, maimed and killed millions across the globe.

Professor Honjo maintains, “I know the Chinese labs where the virus was perfected. I called many times since the Wuhan breakout. Phones are dead. Doctors and technicians involved were killed.”

He added, “natural viruses are temperature and climate-sensitive. Corona had affected every nation, irrespective of geography, climate and temperature. Had it been natural, it’s spreading would have been limited to Wuhan like places and climate.”

Dr. Honjo threw a challenge in support of his finding and the assertions, saying, “if it’s not proven even after my death, take away my Nobel prize.”

Honjo never worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the quotes in this post are fictitious, and China did not “invent” this virus. But in this message’s defense, it does accurately state that Honjo won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2018.

Honjo is currently the Deputy Director-General and Distinguished Professor at the Kyoto University Institute for Advanced Study. A biography on the KUIAS website lists the various institutes and academies Honjo has been associated with since the 1960s. The Wuhan Institute of Virology is not included.

We searched for the quotes included in this viral text but could not find them reported by any credible sources. In fact, it appears that this quotation exists solely in social media posts. We did find a Twitter account using the handle @TasukuHonjo that expressed similar sentiments as the above-displayed quotes, but it doesn’t appear that this account actually belongs to the Nobel Prize winner.



For starters, this account is not verified. It is also only a few days old (its first tweet was posted on April 23) and it has been used almost exclusively to push conspiratorial content regarding COVID-19.

We reached out to Honjo for more information. While we were still waiting on a reply, the Indian fact-checking website News Meter managed to contact one of Honjo’s students who issued a statement on the Nobel Prize winner’s behalf. The statement confirmed that this Twitter account was fake, that Honjo never worked at the Wuhan lab, and that these were not real quotes:

Prof. Honjo never gave any such statement. Each and every sentence of this post is completely false and has no connection with truth. Prof. Honjo never worked in Wuhan laboratory. He never called there. He did not work on virus origin and functions and other related issues. All the contents are just concocted and nothing else…

… The twitter handle you mentioned does not belong to Prof. Tasuku Honjo. it is created by someone possibly with malicious intentions. Please stop this fake news.

Furthermore, Honjo’s genuine public statements about the pandemic fly in the face of the quotes presented in this viral piece of text.

For instance, in an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review, Honjo was asked why medical advancements have not been able to eradicate infectious diseases. While the fake quote included in the above-displayed text falsely claimed Honjo said that “natural viruses” couldn’t spread around the globe due to factors such as climate, Honjo’s genuine response to this question shows that he actually has the opposite view, saying that “one novel virus can turn the world on its head” and that “infectious disease can spread quickly to a large number of patients.”

Honjo said:

Medicine has evolved dramatically even compared with 20 years ago, but every new virus requires a new response. Physics and chemistry have established principles, but biology is a science that’s still developing, and there’s so much we still don’t know. So one novel virus can turn the world on its head. Many people probably wonder why, but that’s just the reality.

Infectious diseases are completely different from something like cancer. Infectious diseases can spread quickly to a large number of patients. Meanwhile, incidence and survival rates for cancer largely stay constant, and expertise in the area is growing steadily.

Research into infectious diseases needs to go hand in hand with immunology. There’s no point in looking only at the virus, and we need to know how people battling the virus respond to it.

Honjo did not work at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, he did not say that COVID-19 was “invented” or “man-made,” and the Twitter account posting similar claims does not belong to the Nobel Prize winner. In addition, this rumor is all based on the unfounded notion that COVID-19 was created as a bioweapon. You can read our examination of that false conspiracy theory.

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