It is with some reasoning, that wise folks advise you to not come up with bizarre stuff in trying times. But Softbank’s Masayoshi Son, who is already heading the company amid one of its worst financial times, forgot to pay heed to that advice.
Son, on early Wednesday, sent out a tweet offering a million free coronavirus tests as the number of cases continues to rise across Japan. He pointed to fellow billionaire Bill Gates, whose philanthropic organization is funding a similar venture, providing at-home coronavirus test kits in Washington State. Masayoshi Son, Japan’s third-richest man, had expressed his concern about the relentless coronavirus outbreak, telling his followers on Twitter that he was planning to do his bit to contain the pandemic.
“I would like to provide the opportunity for free PCR testing for those who are worried about the novel coronavirus,” Son tweeted on Wednesday. “First, for 1 million people. We are preparing how they can apply,” he said, referring to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests which can detect very early infections.
He also put up an illustration of the PCR test, in which a person could take a sample at home and mail it to a lab that would test the specimen send back the results.
But that offer didn’t go down well with many people, as they directed a barrage of criticism towards him that he risked overwhelming medical facilities, prompting him to say he might reconsider the plan.
“Since it’s been badly received, maybe I won’t do it …” he tweeted two hours after the first post.
Although the response to his offer has been fairly negative, there have been praises for Son’s effort to help during these testing times, particularly by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s tax chief, Akira Amari. The politician added that discount furniture magnate Akio Nitori has also offered to donate 1 million face masks to the northern prefecture of Hokkaido, which has been particularly hard-hit.
There have been concerns that Japan’s official tally of about 570 confirmed cases significantly underestimates the scope of the outbreak because of its limited testing facilities. In February, the government drew the ire of the public for its callous attempts to quarantine passengers and crew on the Diamond Princess Cruise ship, where infections surged to hundreds of cases. Japan has reported close to 1,300 infections, with more than half coming from the quarantined Diamond Princess Cruise ship.