A Wuhan hospital says a Chinese doctor who blew the whistle on the outbreak of coronavirus only to be reprimanded by police has died from the virus, amid confusion over earlier reports of his death and then resuscitation.
- Li Wenliang was reprimanded by local police after trying to warn medics of the outbreak
- He was later diagnosed with the deadly coronavirus and posted his story online
- The death toll has climbed past 560, with more than 28,200 infections worldwide
Li Wenliang, 34, was one of eight whistleblowers who tried to warn other medical workers of the outbreak, but was accused of spreading fake information by local police, according to the state-run Global Times newspaper.
Global Times first reported Dr Li’s death on Thursday evening, but later published a report from Wuhan Central Hospital that said his heart had stopped beating at 9:30pm (local time) and he was given resuscitation treatment and was in a critical condition.
This morning, the hospital confirmed on Chinese social media site Weibo that Dr Li had died.
“We deeply regret and mourn the death of Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist in our hospital,” the hospital said.
“He died at 2:58am on February 7, 2020, after failing to be fully rescued.”
The BBC reported that official media outlets had been told to change their earlier death reports to say the doctor was still being treated, but later reported the new time of his death on Friday.
We deeply mourn the death of #Wuhan doctor Li wenliang, who unfortunately got infected with novel #Coronavirus while battling with the epidemic. After all-effort rescue, Li passed away on 2:58 am, Feb. 7.
The initial reports of Dr Li’s death triggered a huge response on Chinese social media.
The People’s Daily sent out a tweet saying Dr Li’s death had sparked “national grief”.
The World Health Organisation tweeted a message expressing sorrow at Dr Li’s death, followed by a tweet that reflected the confusion over reports of his death.
At today’s #2019nCoV media briefing @DrMikeRyan was asked about reports that Dr Li Wenliang had passed away, and he expressed condolences. WHO has no information on the status of Dr Li.
The number of people infected globally is now 28,353, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins this morning.
More than 28,000 of those cases are in China, which reported almost 4,000 new cases in the last 24 hours.
More than 200 cases have been reported outside China, in more than two dozen other countries, including Australia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea and the United States.
The death toll has reached 565 worldwide — 563 of them in mainland China. The Philippines and Hong Kong have each reported one death.
Dr Li’s warnings
Dr Li sent a message to medical staff advising them to wear masks and protection to avoid infection after he noticed several patients presenting with a virus similar to the deadly SARS epidemic.
Days later, he was summoned by police and told to sign a letter that accused him of “making false comments” and spreading rumours.
He posted that letter to Weibo in late January, the BBC reported.
“We solemnly warn you: If you keep being stubborn, with such impertinence, and continue this illegal activity, you will be brought to justice — is that understood?”
Underneath, in Dr Li’s handwriting, the words “Yes, I do” are written.
Dr Li said he was diagnosed with the coronavirus on January 20.
Global Times said media reports said his pregnant wife was not in a good condition, and that Dr Li had told other media outlets that “as the coronavirus continues to spread, I don’t want to leave. I’ll work on the frontline when I recover”.
China has been accused of suppressing information about the coronavirus, including reprimanding doctors, fuelling concerns Beijing is engaging in a cover-up.
Chinese President Xi Jinping declared a “people’s war” on Thursday (local time) against the fast-spreading coronavirus whose impact has been felt around the world from slowing factory floors to quarantined cruise liners.
“The whole country has responded with all its strength to respond with the most thorough and strict prevention and control measures, starting a people’s war for epidemic prevention and control,” Xinhua news agency quoted him as saying in a telephone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.
Health officials in the United States and China want to get a vaccine to initial human testing within months, but drugmakers have cautioned they have a long way to go.
“There are no known effective therapeutics,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said, when asked about reports of “breakthroughs” that boosted markets on Wednesday (local time).
China’s National Health Commission said the HIV drug lopinavir/ritonavir could be used for coronavirus patients, without specifying how. That triggered a rush for the HIV drug.
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