Coronavirus: Chinese ‘Whistleblower’ Doctor Confirmed Dead

Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old doctor working in Wuhan, warned others about the virus before it became global knowledge. Photo Credit: Global Times

A Chinese doctor who was among the first to raise a public alarm about the deadly new coronavirus outbreak died of the infection early on Friday (China time), his hospital announced.

Opthalmologist Li Wenliang passed away from the infection at 2:58 am, Wuhan Central Hospital said in a post on its verified account on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

Chinese media had changed their reports on Thursday that the doctor was dead.

The state-run media, Global Times, first reported that Dr Li had died of the novel coronavirus, but later reported he was instead critically ill.

Dr Li was declared dead at 21:30 local time (13:30 GMT) on Thursday. However, journalists and doctors at the scene, who do not want their names used, said government officials then intervened, the BBC reported.

Official media outlets were told to change their reports to say the doctor was still being treated.

Reports said the doctor was given a treatment known as ECMO (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation) which keeps a person’s heart pumping and keeps their blood oxygenated without it going through their lungs.

Li, a 34-year-old doctor working in Wuhan, raised the alarm about the virus on December 30, but was silenced by local police.

According to CNN, he was one of several medics targeted by police for trying to blow the whistle on the deadly virus in the early weeks of the outbreak, which has sickened more than 28,000 people and killed more than 560.

Li had posted in his medical school alumni group on the Chinese messaging app, WeChat, that seven patients from a local seafood market had been diagnosed with a SARS-like illness and were quarantined in his hospital.

Soon after he posted the message, Li was accused of rumor-mongering by the Wuhan police.

Local authorities later apologised to Dr Li, the BBC reported.