VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Photo of ‘1,000’ Japanese medical volunteers heading to Wuhan NOT TRUE

At least eight netizens and two Facebook (FB) pages have revived an old photo showing two lines of what appear to be Japanese nationals at an airport, wrongly claiming it was a “1,000-man medical team from Japan” headed to volunteer in Wuhan, China -- the center of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak.

From Jan. 29 to Feb. 3, FB users uploaded a pixelated photo featuring a group of people wearing vests that bear the Japanese flag. It was captioned, “1.000 medical team from Japan, come to Wuhan for help. Great, bravo Japan.” Instead of a comma, a period was used in the "1,000" figure, ostensibly to evade detection.

The false posts, which have been shared by over 14,000 people collectively, are not at all about a Japanese team heading to Wuhan.

The image circulating on social media is over 11 years old. Taken on May 20, 2008, its subject is actually a 22-member medical team at Japan’s Narita International Airport before flying to Chengdu city in China, then been hit by an earthquake. It was shot for China’s state news agency Xinhua, and can be seen on the website of Chinese public broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) and government information portal China Internet Information Center.

The deceptive image being circulated on social media also appears edited to look brighter.

The incorrect FB posts made the rounds on social media shortly after Japan started sending chartered flights to Wuhan on Jan. 28 to repatriate Japanese nationals. The flights also carried protective suits and face masks that the Japanese government has donated to health workers in the Chinese city.

The netizens’ false posts got a combined total of 7,400 reactions, 203 comments, and over 12,200 shares. The posts by FB pages Sayson TV101 and Japan News have a total of 884 reactions, 75 comments, and more than 2,000 shares.

Sayson TV101 was created on Aug. 31, 2019; Japan News created on March 6, 2015.

The 2019-nCoV outbreak, declared by the World Health Organization as a public health emergency, has affected over 24,500 people in 28 countries and has killed 493, according to a Johns Hopkins progress report on the virus.

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)


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Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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