A couple wearing protective suits as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus walk along a street in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on March 31, 2020. (AFP / Noel Celis)

False claim circulates online that China and Japan are 'free' of COVID-19

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A post has been shared multiple times on Facebook in March 2020 that claims China and Japan are “free” of the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19. The claim is false; data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows new cases continue to be reported in both countries.

This post was published on Facebook on March 26, 2020. It has been shared more than 11,000 times.

The post, written in a mix of Tagalog and English, reads: "Two countries are already FREE of COVID-19 / 1. China / 2. Japan / I'm sure the Philippines will be third in Jesus name".

Below is a screenshot of the misleading post:

Screenshot of Facebook post

As of April 1, 2020, COVID-19 has killed at least 40,598 people globally, and infected 823,626 others, according to this WHO report.

A similar claim has also been shared here, here, here and here on Facebook. 

The claim is false; China and Japan have both reported new cases of COVID-19 in the days before and after the misleading posts were shared. 

Data extracted from WHO’s daily situation reports on COVID-19 between March 24 and March 28 found China had reported at least one hundred new cases daily. Japan also reported dozens of new cases. 

Below is a chart summarising the numbers of new cases reported during this timeframe:

Summary of new cases

While China’s official figures routinely show zero new confirmed domestic cases, the Chinese authorities continue to report confirmed imported cases, as stated in this AFP report on March 29, 2020.

Japan has postponed the Tokyo Olympics to July 23 next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is an AFP report on the announcement.