One of the Chinese doctors, an ophthalmologist, who had tried to warn his fellow medical professionals about the novel coronavirus outbreak has succumb to the virus early this morning, says state-run media.
Dr Li Wenliang, 34, passed away at 02:58am on Friday after emergency treatment, said the Wuhan Central Hospital on its Weibo account
Dr Li and seven other “whistleblowers” had tried to warn others about this new SARS-like coronavirus outbreak they were seeing in the Wuhan Central Hospital but were instead castigated by local authorities for causing panic.
He had apparently initially warned his classmates about the virus back in December 2019 and urged them to be careful after he had seen a patient report which suggested there was a coronavirus similar to SARS.
He shared the information in a group chat, saying that there were already seven confirmed cases of “SARS” – at the time not knowing this was a different virus at the time. He urged others in the field to wear protective clothing to avoid infection.
However, on 3 January, Dr Li was summoned by the Public Security Bureau where he was made to sign a letter stating that he had made “false comments” and had “severely disturbed the social order”.
After that, Dr Li returned to work where he received patients infected with the novel coronavirus. A few days later, having worked closely with infected patients, Dr Li became developing symptoms. He was hospitalised on 12 January, with tests confirming that he had been infected.
On his Weibo account last Thursday, he said: ” “Today nucleic acid testing came back with a positive result, the dust has settled, finally diagnosed.”
Global Times quoted chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) Zeng Guang who stressed that the eight Wuhan “whistleblowers” should be highly praised.
“They were wise before the outbreak,” he said. However, he asserted that any judgement should be backed by scientific evidence.
Following Dr Li’s death, there has been an outpouring of grief and a call for local authorities to issue an official apology to him.
Global Times cited someone in a WeChat post saying, “we lost a hero”, adding that if local authorities has heeded the late doctor’s warning, the outbreak might not have worsened.
Dr Li, originally from Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, enrolled at Wuhan University in 2004 where he majored in clinical medicine, according to media reports. Following a three year stint in Xiamen, East China’s Fujian Province, Dr Li returned to Wuhan where he started working with the Wuhan Central Hospital.
In earlier media reports, Dr Li has said, that “as the coronavirus continues to spread, I don’t want to leave. I’ll work on the frontline when I recover.”
The virus outbreak continues to spread
According to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) latest situation report, there are now 28,276 confirmed cases of the virus around the world, with 28,060 being in China. So far, the virus has caused 564 deaths in China and one abroad.
About 24 countries have confirmed cases of the virus, with several confirming human-to-human transmission outside of China.
Singapore has confirmed 28 cases of the virus as of 6 February, with one of the latest two cases being a 41 year-old Singapore citizen who has no recent travel history to mainland China nor is he related or had close contact with any of the previously confirmed cases.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement that all previously announced confirmed cases have been either China nationals travelling from Hubei, or individuals with links to China national travellers.
This latest case is the first to have no apparent connection.