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'A true hero': Japanese Brazilian doctor lost to virus in Sao Paulo mourned on FB

A screenshot of a Facebook post made by Claudio Miyake, younger brother of Fernando Miyake, a third-generation Japanese Brazilian doctor in Sao Paulo, outlines the doctor's battle with the novel coronavirus, which took his life in April.

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Mainichi) -- Fernando Miyake, a third-generation Japanese Brazilian doctor who treated patients with COVID-19 in Sao Paulo, passed away in April after contracting the virus himself. His younger brother Claudio Miyake made a post on Facebook outlining the doctor's battle against the coronavirus and praised his brother as "a true hero."

Brazil, which is home to the world's largest Japanese diaspora, recorded over 270,000 cases of coronavirus infection as of May 20, becoming the third worst-hit country in the world after the United States and Russia, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Numerous cases where health care workers contract the virus, many of which leads to their deaths, have also been reported.

Fernando Miyake, 56, worked as a physician in a hospital located in Santo Andre, a suburb of Brazil's largest city Sao Paulo. The first case of infection in Brazil was confirmed in late February, and this hospital also saw a surge in the number of patients from early March. In addition to regular medical examinations, Miyake was subject to the extra load of attending to emergency visits by outpatients. Miyake's wife Ariana, 47, who is a nurse, said that confusion had been spreading among health care workers at the time as they did not have a full grasp on how to deal with the matter. Although Miyake himself also revealed concerns, he continued to work on the front line to provide medical treatment while voicing his duty as a doctor.

The doctor, who did not have any chronic diseases, claimed symptoms of a cough and a headache on March 21. He was later confirmed to have contracted the virus after being admitted to the hospital. It was deemed as highly likely that he became infected during his work, and he died on April 21.

Miyake's younger brother and dentist, Claudio Miyake, 54, remarked, "My brother took pride in his profession, and said that he wished to continue it for his entire life. He indeed carried through his work and his words to the very end." Claudio's Facebook post which paid homage to his late brother was shared a total of 14,000 times, and comments which mourned the doctor's death reached around 5,000.

When performing tasks in the medical field, Ariana takes preventative measures, such as wearing a mask and washing her hands, more thoroughly than before to make sure her two daughters, who suddenly lost their father at young ages under 20, "never feel the same way again."

She says emphatically, "There are many people who become infected without taking any prevention, as they do not believe in the dangers of the virus. I would like for people to refrain from going outdoors at all costs, and not to think it's someone else's problem."

Claudio also sends a message to people in Japan where regulations against going outdoors are being gradually lifted, saying, "Please don't let your guard down until effective vaccines and medicine are developed. The virus is always lurking nearby."

The health care system of Brazil is currently under threat. President Jair Bolsonaro, who calls COVID-19 "a light cold" appears in meetings without wearing a mask, and repeatedly hugs and shakes hands with his supporters. Meanwhile, two health ministers who advocate the importance of preventing infections have already been dismissed from their posts since April. Cases of infection have expanded in the meantime, and at least 30,000 health care workers have contracted the virus and temporarily left their jobs, while over 100 of these workers died.

The local government of Sao Paulo restricts residents from leaving their homes as an independent measure, but President Bolsonaro's current administration has demanded that local bodies lift such restrictions over concerns of damage to the economy. As many residents agree with the president's viewpoint, the move to refrain from going outdoors has not been thoroughly established.

(Japanese original by Taichi Yamamoto, Sao Paulo Bureau)

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