epa08338630 A molecular geneticist in protective clothing prepares a test for SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus which causes the COVID-19 disease in a hospital lab in the Rhineland Region, Germany, 01 April 2020 (issued 02 April 2020). Countries around the world are taking increased measures to stem the widespread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus which causes the COVID-19 disease. EPA/SASCHA STEINBACH ATTENTION: This Image is part of a PHOTO SET

South Korean TV series high on drama but not foresight of COVID-19 crisis

AAP FactCheck April 6, 2020

The Statement

A recurring practice during the COVID-19 crisis has been referencing how popular culture seemingly predicted the worldwide pandemic through TV, books and movies.

A Facebook post has drawn attention to a 2018 South Korean drama series that is available on streaming service Netflix. The post, which features footage from the series “My Secret, Terrius”, reads: “China virus. They put it on tv 2 years Before it happened And look at China now as of March 28 2020”.

The post features a video, seemingly shot on a mobile phone, with an unseen male speaker directing viewers to the 53 minute mark of episode 10 of My Secret, Terrius, which is subtitled in English. In the show, an on-screen doctor can be seen telling an individual that tests have found a mutant coronavirus that is more dangerous than the previously known strains of the virus, MERS and SARS. The doctor explains the coronavirus has a mortality rate of 90 per cent has been manipulated to attack the lungs within five minutes of being exposed.

The post has been viewed more than 17,000 times and shared more than 130 times.

A Facebook post
 A Facebook post claims a South Korean drama series predicted the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2018. 

The Analysis

The first cases of COVID-19 emerged in December 2019, when a mysterious illness reported in Wuhan, China. It is a new strain in the coronavirus family – a group of viruses which also the SARS and MERS respiratory infections.

In the My Secret, Terrius clip, the doctor correctly says the coronavirus is related to same family as MERS and SARS but incorrectly states it is related to “the common flu”. While the common cold is caused by a coronavirus, influenza is a different virus. The doctor character says the mutant virus has been tweaked to result in a death rate of almost 90 per cent. Regarding the COVID-19 mortality rate, the World Health Organization reported on March 17: “Mortality for COVID-19 appears higher than for influenza, especially seasonal influenza. While the true mortality of COVID-19 will take some time to fully understand, the data we have so far indicate that the crude mortality ratio (the number of reported deaths divided by the reported cases) is between three to four per cent.”

Regarding the show’s claim that the mutant virus can attack lungs within five minutes of exposure, the WHO estimates the incubation period for COVID-19 ranges from 1-14 days.

A molecular geneticist prepares a test for SARS-CoV-2
 Most estimates of the incubation period for COVID-19 range from 1-14 days, according to WHO. 

As to the origin of COVID-19, research published in the journal Nature Medicine concluded the virus was the product of natural evolution. The paper “The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2” concludes COVID-19 was “not a purposefully manipulated virus”.

“Since we observed all notable SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) features … in related coronaviruses in nature, we do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible,” the authors said.

A statement in The Lancet written by public health officials concluded that animals were the likely source of the virus: “Scientists from multiple countries have published and analysed genomes of the causative agent, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife.”

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the claim that a 2018 TV drama predicted COVID-19 to be false. The series does not refer to COVID-19 but rather to a “coronavirus” which is a common source of respiratory illnesses. The clip shown does not describe the effects or symptoms of COVID-19 and researchers have concluded the pandemic virus originated through natural evolution rather than manipulation.

False – The implications of the content are factually inaccurate.

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