The death has been confirmed of the Chinese ophthalmologist who tried to inform people about the new coronavirus well before Chinese health authorities disclosed its full threat.
On 30 December, he had attempted to warn his medical school colleagues about the virus but was silenced by police
Thirty-four year old Dr Li Wenliang, who practised at Wuhan Central Hospital, has been described as “a national hero and a symbol of the Chinese government’s systemic failings”.
On 30 December, he had attempted to warn his medical school colleagues about the virus but was silenced by police.
As a consequence of his actions, Dr Li was detained and at that time, the Chinese state television warned the public against spreading rumours online. He was released from detention on 3 January 2020, having signed a police document admitting he had made “untrue statements” on social media. He promised he would “earnestly reflect” on his mistakes.
When Dr Li returned to work, he attended patients at Wuhan’s hospitals. He started to cough on 10 January and, as soon as he suspected he was infected, quarantined himself from his pregnant wife and young child. Dr Li admitted himself into hospital in late January and tests confirmed he had contracted coronavirus.
The Wuhan Central Hospital reported via social media that Dr Li was “unfortunately infected during the fight against the pneumonia epidemic of the new coronavirus infection”.
Although the World Health Organisation was informed of the new coronavirus by the Chinese authorities on 31 December 2019, it was several weeks before health officials acknowledged the seriousness of the outbreak and took action in an effort to control its spread.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organisation’s Health Emergencies Program, said, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr Li Wenliang. We all need to celebrate work that he did.”
Dr Li Wenliang died on Thursday 6 February. His mother and father have been hospitalised with fever, however there is no information about the health of his wife and child.