A Chinese doctor who tried to warn fellow medics of the coronavirus outbreak has died after contracting the virus himself, according to state-run media.
Chinese doctor #LiWenliang, one of the eight "whistleblowers" who tried to warn other medics of the coronavirus outbreak but were reprimanded by local police, died from #coronavirus at 2:58 am Friday, the hospital where he received treatment announced. https://t.co/eCrNha7Nn1 pic.twitter.com/WYwDxZFBej
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) February 6, 2020
Ophthalmologist Dr Li Wenliang – aged 34 – passed away at 2:58am on Friday after hours of confusion over his fate.
He underwent emergency at Wuhan Central Hospital late on Thursday as state-run news outlets, including Global Times, CGTN, Beijing News and Caixin, retracted reports that he had died.
Condolences had already begun pouring in across Chinese social media, with the World Health Organization paid tribute: “We all need to celebrate work that he did on #2019nCoV.”
Looks like @globaltimesnews deleted this tweet, which had been widely shared, about the [reported/rumored] passing of Dr. Li Wenliang. This is not typically how the CCP controls the message. But it's not everyday that an entire nation mourns the loss of a whistleblowing hero. pic.twitter.com/GQ71ecYV9X
— GreatFire.org (@GreatFireChina) February 6, 2020
Li was among eight people reprimanded by police in December for “rumour-mongering” over the SARS-like virus, though he was later hailed as a “whistleblower” in state media posts.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) February 6, 2020
Li had told other medics in a chat message that they should wear protective clothing to avoid infection. He was summoned by the Public Security Bureau where officers made him sign a letter stating that he had made “false comments” and had “severely disturbed the social order.”
Local authorities eventually apologised to Li, but – in January – he contracted the virus whilst he was treating a woman with glaucoma, according to the BBC. “Today nucleic acid testing came back with a positive result, the dust has settled, finally diagnosed,” he wrote last Thursday on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.
Police in Central China's Wuhan arrested 8 people spreading rumors about local outbreak of unidentifiable #pneumonia. Previous online posts said it was SARS. https://t.co/oVpk4EIYM7 pic.twitter.com/JXbK9pmq8v
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) January 1, 2020
There have been over 28,000 confirmed cases of new infections worldwide and over 560 deaths – including one in Hong Kong, according to official figures.
The novel virus resembles the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed more than 300 people in Hong Kong in 2003.