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VERIFY: 'Event 201' pandemic exercise didn’t predict COVID-19

Viral claims have been falsely linking a fictional simulation in late 2019 to the current coronavirus pandemic.

Multiple claims on social media say world leaders met for a pandemic simulation right before the first new coronavirus cases were reported. Is this a coincidence or something more? 

Back in October, a round table discussion called "Event 201" took place in New York. It featured global business, health and environment representatives (including the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) participated in an exercise on how to respond to a simulated pandemic, a fictional scenario very similar to the current one.

THE QUESTION

Did Event 201 predict the COVID-19 pandemic?

THE ANSWER

No, it didn’t. While the virus in the simulation was a fictional coronavirus strain, it had a lot of differences compared to the strain causing COVID-19.

The event worked with a hypothetical pandemic, but didn’t predict one. 

WHAT WE FOUND

After the claims surfaced, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, released a statement explaining why the EVENT201 simulation wasn't related.

Johns Hopkins organized the event, and they explained they didn’t predict the current pandemic but instead focuses on a simulated model of a different one.

Their goal was to create a realistic coronavirus pandemic situation so that the members of the group could learn real lessons from it.

The pandemic simulated by Event 201 did explore symptoms like respiratory disease and pneumonia, and also included some of the consequences a pandemic could cause like travel restrictions and the rush to develop a vaccine.

“Another key difference is the “origin” of the viruses.

In the simulation, the virus came from a pig and was ingested by a human.

The CDC has determined that the virus causing COVID-19 originated in bats, but so far there’s no definitive answer as to how it passed to humans.”

The Bottom Line

While the event didn’t predict the current coronavirus pandemic, it did point out how unprepared the world was to control such disease. This was the purpose of the round table exercise. 

After the event ended, the organizers released a document of recommendations explaining how these conclusions would require collaborative efforts between governments, international organizations and global business, as these further decisions would reduce long term effects and consequences of a global emergency.

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