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No, Japan’s Nobel laureate Honjo did not say coronavirus ‘unnatural’, made in China

“Japan's Nobel prize winning Professor of Medicine, Professor Dr Tasuku Honjo, created a sensation today by saying that the Coronavirus is not natural,” says a Facebook post from 25 April 2020. 

“Based on all my knowledge and research till date, I can say this with 100% confidence - That the Coronavirus is not natural. It did not come from bats. China manufactured it,” the post quotes Honjo as saying.

It claims the scientist said that if the new coronavirus was “natural”, it would die in hotter climates – and its ability to survive hot climates is proof that it was artificially made.

The post has been viewed more than 1.1 million times. 

Prof Tasuku Honjo is a Japanese immunologist awarded the 2018 Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work in cancer research.

Did he say the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was an unnatural virus manufactured in China? We checked. 

‘False accusations’, ‘misinformation’ – Honjo

A Google search reveals no reputable news sources are reporting what would be a controversial quote from a Nobel prize-winning scientist. 

The Facebook post claims Honjo worked in a laboratory in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus outbreak was first identified. He didn’t. He has mainly worked at Japanese universities such as Osaka University and Kyoto University, where he is currently deputy director-general and distinguished professor.

On 27 April Honjo, through Kyoto University, released an official statement refuting the claim.

“In the wake of the pain, economic loss, and unprecedented global suffering caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, I am greatly saddened that my name and that of Kyoto University have been used to spread false accusations and misinformation,” he said

The statement warns against sharing unproven claims about the virus. 

“At this stage, when all of our energies are needed to treat the ill, prevent the further spread of sorrow, and plan for a new beginning, the broadcasting of unsubstantiated claims regarding the origins of the disease is dangerously distracting,” he said. 

Nobel laureate Prof Tasuku Honjo did not say that Covid-19 was an unnatural virus manufactured in China. – Naledi Mashishi

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