Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, one of the eight “whistleblowers” who tried to warn other medics of the coronavirus outbreak but were reprimanded by local police, died from coronavirus early on Friday, the hospital where he received treatment announced.
Wuhan Central Hospital released on its Weibo account that Li passed away at 2:58 am Friday after emergency treatment.
Li was given emergency treatment with ECMO (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation) after his heart stopped beating at around 21:30 Thursday, according to media reports.
Li, a doctor who worked for Wuhan Central Hospital where he was also treated for coronavirus infection, initially warned his college classmates about the deadly virus in December 2019, urging them to take care. On December 30, he obtained a patient report suggesting SARS-like coronavirus positive signs. He then published information in a group chat saying that there have been seven confirmed cases of “SARS,” according to one of his Weibo posts. On January 3, local police reprimanded him for spreading “online rumors” and required him to sign a letter of reprimand.
Since then, he returned to work, the post said. After he received patients infected with coronavirus, he began coughing on January 10, then having fever the next day. He was subsequently hospitalized on January 12.
Li was among eight Wuhan residents who were reprimanded by local police in early January for spreading “rumors” about the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
The information they spread online claimed that cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the viral respiratory illness that battered China in the spring of 2003, were detected in some of Wuhan’s hospitals.
Many said the experience of the eight “whistle-blowers” was evidence of local authorities’ incompetence to tackle a contagious and deadly virus.
A top epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) said in a recent interview with Global Times’ editor-in-chief Hu Xijin that we should highly praise the eight Wuhan residents.
“They were wise before the outbreak,” Zeng Guang, chief epidemiologist at the CCDC, said, adding though that any judgment needs to be backed by scientific evidence.
Some Chinese netizens said local authorities owe him an official apology, claiming that it’s heartbreaking news. “We lost a hero,” a netizen said in a WeChat post, noting that if his warning could send an alarm, the outbreak might not have continued to worsen.
The 34-year-old doctor who was originally from Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, was enrolled in at Wuhan University in 2004, majoring in clinical medicine, according to media reports. After three-year of work in Xiamen, East China’s Fujian Province, he returned to Wuhan and had been working at Wuhan Central Hospital since then.
Media reports also said his wife, who is pregnant, was not in good conditions. Li said on his Weibo account that he was diagnosed with coronavirus infection on Saturday.
Li told the media in earlier reports that “as the coronavirus continues to spread, I don’t want to leave. I’ll work on the frontline when I recover.”