A Chinese doctor who tried to warn other medical officials about the deadly new coronavirus in the weeks before it became a crippling outbreak died on Friday, local time, from the infection, according to the hospital treating him. Hours before his death was announced, the Wuhan City Central Hospital said on the Chinese social media site Weibo that it was trying to save Li Wenliang, who was in “critical condition.” Some Chinese outlets and The Global Times had reported that Wenliang was dead despite the hospital saying he was in a critical condition. The World Health Organization also issued a condolence message on Twitter, without specifying the source of the report, then deleted in when it seemed that the doctor was still alive. The hospital confirmed his death soon after. “We deeply regret and mourn this,” the statement, on Weibo, said.
The New York Times previously reported that Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at the hospital in the center of Wuhan, was punished by police and reprimanded by officials from the provincial health department after he sent a warning in December about seven people with a “mysterious illness” to an online chat group that included medical students. He was later summoned to the Public Security Bureau to sign a letter in which he was accused of making “false comments” and was told his warning amounted to “illegal behavior.” Li was one of the eight doctors that local police punished for “rumor-mongering” weeks before officials declared the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier Thursday, Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, said they were aware of the report and added that any death of someone on the front lines was devastating.