The Chinese doctor who first warned about the coronavirus outbreak in the city of Wuhan, Dr Li Wenliang has died of the illness. The 34-year old ophthalmologist alerted fellow doctors on 30 December last year that he was seeing more and more cases of people with symptoms of the SARS-like virus.
Four days later, Li was summoned by security police and forced to sign a letter that accused him of “making false comments” that had “severely disturbed the social order,” according to the BBC. Police said he was one of eight people under investigation for “spreading rumours,” the BBC reported.
On its social media page, the Wuhan Central Hospital says Li contracted the virus last month and died on 6 February despite an all-effort rescue to save his life.
The World Health Organization tweeted, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr Li Wenliang. We all need to celebrate work that he did” on the virus.
In a posting on social media, at the end of December, Li warned fellow doctors in Wuhan to wear protective clothing to avoid infection. Wuhan is the epicentre of the coronavirus that has claimed almost 650 lives among more than 30 000 cases. The fatality rate is 2.1%; that compares to 9.6% for the SARS virus that created similar concern in 2002.
After contracting the virus, Li broke his police-imposed silence from his hospital bed,, telling The New York Times in an interview by text message, “If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier, I think it would have been a lot better. There should be more openness and transparency.”