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Asterix 'predicted' coronavirus

Did Asterix predict the coronavirus outbreak?

That is the claim that some people have been making on social media after they picked up on a familiarly-named character from a 2017 comic book – Asterix and the Chariot Race.

In the book, by the new Asterix artist-writer duo Didier Conrad and Jean-Yves Ferri, the popular ancient Gaulish characters Asterix and Obelix enter an international race in which their main rival for first prize is a masked driver called Coronavirus.

Coronavirus, who has the same name in the original French and in the English translation, is the Roman entrant and Roman leader Julius Caesar puts pressure on the organisers to let him win for the honour of Rome.

He is acclaimed by the crowds who yell his name, but as usual the Gaulish heroes thwart Caesar’s plans.

Commentators wondered if the Asterix authors were psychic, showing the characters defeating 'Cornonavirus' years before the word became a household name.

In reality however the word has existed since the 1960s as a scientific term.

There are many kinds of coronavirus, such as the SARS virus that hit headlines in 2002-2003, or the current one known formally as COVID-19.

They are so-called because of the crown-like shape of the viruses when viewed under a microscope.

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