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Doctor's Facebook post warns Japanese public, politicians to stay vigilant against virus

A screenshot of professor Hideaki Oka's social media post regarding the novel coronavirus is shown here.

SAITAMA -- Staff at medical institutions in Japan feel pushed to their limits amid the spread of the novel coronavirus, claimed an epidemiology professor in a Facebook post that has gone viral.

    Professor Hideaki Oka at Saitama Medical Center, based in the eastern Japan city of Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, told the Mainichi Shimbun that he fears that people are letting their guard down regarding the virus.

    On Nov. 26, Oka uploaded a Facebook post that read, "From a doctor who works in the field to the public, and if circumstances permit, to politicians. At the risk of seeming rude ..." In the post, Oka introduced the novel coronavirus as "a disease that anyone can catch now." He said that there is a shortage of health care specialists in comparison to the number of secured hospital beds announced by administrative bodies. Oka compared the reality of doctors examining patients despite it being outside their area of specialization to flight operations, and posed the question, "The current political decision is that it's fine as there are still planes left, even though inexperienced pilots have also been mobilized. Is this really safe?"

    The post also included the statements, "Although young people tend to get the impression that getting infected is like catching a cold, I've never seen a cold where a fever lasts as long as a week, and respiratory failure arises in patients at such a frequency," and "If we keep moving forward with no measures, infections will peak at an even higher level in the following one to two weeks, and the number of patients with severe symptoms will peak one week from there. As the current health care system has reached its limit, this means that a collapse in health care will occur two to three weeks later." Oka added, "Although the wave of infections has already happened, the peak of the wave's severity can still be changed," and called for swift countermeasures.

    A tweet that attached the Facebook post was retweeted tens of thousands of times, and received comments such as "We should sense more feelings of crisis."

    In response to a Mainichi Shimbun interview, Oka commented, "I fear that public opinion surrounding the coronavirus will shift to groundless, optimistic views. I'd like for the national government to provide accurate information based on information by trusted experts."

    (Japanese original by Shoko Washizu, Saitama Bureau)

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