SoftBank billionaire Masayoshi Son broke a 3-year Twitter silence to promise 1 million coronavirus tests

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SoftBank billionaire Masayoshi Son broke a 3-year Twitter silence to promise 1 million coronavirus tests

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masayoshi son

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

SoftBank Group Corp. Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son.

  • SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son broke a three-year Twitter silence on Tuesday to say he's "worried" about coronavirus.
  • Son then said he would contribute to the public health response by offering 1 million free tests for the virus.
  • Japan has reported 514 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and nine deaths.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Japan's third-richest man is getting involved in the fight against coronavirus.

SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son broke a three-year Twitter silence on Tuesday to say that he is "worried" about the coronavirus.

"It's been a long time since I tweeted," he wrote on Tuesday. "I am worried about the situation of the new coronavirus."

Son's last tweet had been in February 2017.

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"Time for action," he said in a follow-up tweet, before promising to contribute to the public health effort by providing 1 million free tests for the virus. Son didn't specify where, but the response of his Twitter followers suggests he intends rollout for his home turf of Japan.

"To those who are worried about the corona virus, I would like to provide a simple PCR test opportunity for free. Starting with 1 million people. We are now preparing ways to apply and so on #coronatestfriends," Son said. A PCR (polymerase chain reaction testing) test typically means a swab.

In another tweet, Son posted a diagram of how the test might work.

 

Son also pointed to fellow billionaire Bill Gates, whose philanthropic organization is funding at-home coronavirus test kits in Washington state.

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According to John Hopkins University, there are 119,500 global confirmed cases of coronavirus, although the majority of these (80,900) are in mainland China where the virus originated. Japan has reported 581 confirmed cases and 12 deaths.

Son breaks his Twitter hiatus as SoftBank, a Japanese conglomerate and a major global tech investor, feels the shockwaves of the coronavirus outbreak. SoftBank, mostly through its Vision Fund, has invested huge amounts in massive consumer tech companies including Uber, DoorDash, and WeWork, all of which are expected to be impacted by the outbreak.

Uber has announced it will compensate any drivers put under quarantine, and gig-economy workers have expressed their concerns about staying healthy during the outbreak, cutting down hours and scouring their vehicles with disinfectant. Uber's ride-hailing arm may also take a hit as people choose to travel less to avoid infection.

Food-delivery apps like Doordash and Uber Eats are likely to see a surge in demand, as has already happened in China. WeWork, on the other hand, may have to reckon with increased numbers of people working from home and a slowdown in new signings.

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