A hospital director at the epicentre of China’s virus epidemic died Tuesday, state media said, the latest medical worker to fall victim to the coronavirus which has spread across the country.
The COVID-19 virus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan late last year, has spread to more than 72,000 people and killed 1,900 in China.
Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, died Tuesday morning after “all-out rescue efforts failed,” state broadcaster CCTV reported.
He is the first known hospital director to have died from the coronavirus.
At least six other medical workers have died from the virus, while 1,716 have been infected, according to official figures.
Liu’s death was initially reported by Chinese media and bloggers shortly after midnight on Tuesday — but the stories were later deleted and replaced with reports that doctors were still attempting to save him.
The hospital director’s death has echoes of the death of Wuhan ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, who had been punished by authorities for sounding the alarm about the virus in late December.
Li’s death prompted a national outpouring of grief as well as anger against the authorities, who were accused of mishandling the crisis.
People took to social media once more to mourn Liu on Tuesday, with many users on the Twitter-like Weibo platform drawing comparisons between Liu’s death and Li’s, which was also initially reported by state media and then denied hours before being finally confirmed again.
Doctors in Wuhan face shortages of masks and protective bodysuits, with some even wearing makeshift hazmat suits and continuing to work despite showing respiratory symptoms, because of a lack of medical staff, health workers have told AFP.