Coronavirus

Leading Australian immunologist accidentally asks Twitter for bottle shop opening hours

Nobel Laureate Professor Peter Doherty mistook Twitter for Google on Monday. Source: AAP

One of Australia's leading experts in infectious diseases has taken a break from his work on the coronavirus to provide some much-needed laughter on Twitter.

Leading Australian immunologist and Nobel laureate Professor Peter Doherty gave social media users a much-needed laugh on Monday afternoon when he accidentally asked Twitter for the opening hours to his local bottle shop.

Professor Doherty, who won the Nobel Prize in 1996 for his work in immunology and infectious diseases, tweeted the words "Dan Murphy opening hours", apparently mistaking Twitter for Google.

"I had both Outlook and a web browser open on the computer, working on emails – a lot of contacts regarding help with COVID-19 come in through my e-mail and I send them on," Professor Doherty told SBS News.

"At age 79, the wires do get crossed sometimes!" 

The former Australian of the Year was not ashamed of his tweet, instead playing along with his followers, which he said have risen by 4500 after the slip.

"I'd rather have a bottle in front'er me than a frontal lobotomy," he later wrote, quoting 20th century US poet Dorothy Parker.

He also poked fun at US President Donald Trump's comments last week about detergent being used as possible COVID-19 cures, writing a trip to the bottle shop was a "whole lot safer than bleach".

Professor Doherty said he was glad to be able to provide "a little amusement" to people mid-pandemic, even if it was at his own expense.

"One of the issues regarding public communication when you have titles like 'professor' and 'Nobel Prize winner’ hung around your neck is that people think you’re some sort of deadly authoritarian bore," he said.

"My wife Penny watches my Twitter feed as people often send links to interesting research papers on COVID-19 and the like – so she picked up on it straight away. Needless to say, she was amused, and I felt more than a little foolish."

His followers praised his light-heartedness about the gaffe, one sending him a screenshot of Dan Murphy's operating hours and another commenting that he had "won Twitter". 

Professor Doherty is the patron of the Doherty Institute, where scientists have been researching a cure for the coronavirus since the pandemic began. 

Earlier this month, the Doherty Institute announced its scientists, in collaboration with the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, had discovered an anti-parasitic drug already widely available around the world could kill COVID-19 in just 48 hours. 

The team said it would need to conduct further testing and clinical trials before the drug could be unleashed against the virus.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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