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Chinese doctor helps Portuguese fight pandemic

XINHUA | Updated: 2020-04-07 08:17

A worker sanitizes a bus station in Cascais, a town near Lisbon in Portugal, on March 28. The country has recorded more than 11,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Monday. XINHUA

LISBON-When Europe confirmed the first human-to-human coronavirus transmission in early February, doctor Yan Chunming was self-quarantined at his home in Lisbon, Portugal, having just returned from his Chinese New Year vacation in his hometown in East China's Jiangxi province.

It was immediately clear to Yan that his second home, Portugal, which ranks among the most popular tourist destinations on the continent, would not be exempt from the impact of the eventual epidemic.

Yan, a practicing physician and director of the Sino-Portuguese Center of Traditional Chinese Medicine, decided to take the initiative and warn his Portuguese colleagues and friends of the risks of an outbreak and urge them to take protective measures as early as possible.

"I acted immediately to raise awareness in Portugal," says Yan, who has practiced traditional Chinese medicine in his host country for 16 years. "From then on, I kept publishing daily updates on the COVID-19 situation in China on my Facebook page. I reminded my Portuguese readers again and again of the danger such an epidemic may pose, and asked them to be on high alert for the coronavirus.

"Some people accused me of stirring panic," Yan says. "Back when the outbreak began, the Portuguese tended to make light of the prospect of an epidemic and reacted calmly to it, as if they were just sipping coffee while watching a football match."

However, the comments and likes left by his readers under his Facebook posts encouraged him to carry on.

When the first COVID-19 infection was confirmed in Portugal in early March, followed by a flurry of new cases, Yan started a live broadcast on social media in Portuguese and English, sharing his knowledge of the novel coronavirus and detailing China's experience in combating what, by then, had become a pandemic.

In his broadcast on March 13, Yan urged the Portuguese government to shut down public places, close all schools isolate all suspected patients and trace all their close contacts. He also recommended that parents keep their school-age children at home.

His live video stream attracted more than 5,000 viewers and registered more than 20,000 clicks.

The Portuguese government closed all schools on March 16 in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

"The government announced its decision to close the country's schools. What I did during that period may have saved a lot of lives. This is the best reward for me as a doctor," Yan says.

His wife, a Portuguese nurse, has been fighting the epidemic on the front line since the early days of the outbreak. Yan created a WhatsApp group to discuss with healthcare professionals in Portugal the latest updates on experimental coronavirus treatments.

A day later, on March 14, a doctor from the northern Portuguese city of Porto, the hardest hit in the country, called Yan and asked for guidelines on how the patients were being treated in China.

Yan got hold of the English-language version of the latest Chinese treatment plan, and he immediately forwarded it to several major hospitals in Portugal via email, and then shared it on his social media pages.

"I tried my best to set up a bridge between the doctors in China and Portugal and to eventually save lives. I feel very satisfied and encouraged," Yan says.

He vowed to continue his efforts until the pandemic is over. "This is my responsibility as a doctor," he says.

"The novel coronavirus carries no passport and needs no visa. It is posing a great threat to human lives all over the world. Humankind should fight the pandemic hand in hand. COVID-19 is doomed to be defeated," he says.

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