Li Wenliang: Doctor who warned about coronavirus outbreak dies after being infected by virus

Whistleblower who was confronted by police becomes latest victim of deadly outbreak

Conrad Duncan
Thursday 06 February 2020 21:22 GMT
WHO comments on death of Chinese doctor accused of 'spreading rumours' about coronavirus

A doctor who was reprimanded by local police for trying to warn doctors about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan has died after being infected by the virus, Chinese media has reported.

Li Wenliang was one of eight whistleblowers who tried to send a message to other medics about a Sars-like illness at the end of December.

Global Times, an English-language newspaper linked to the Chinese Communist Party, reported earlier that Dr Li was in a critical condition after his heart “reportedly stopped beating” at Wuhan Central Hospital. In a statement on its Weibo social media account, the hospital said Dr Li passed away at 2.58am on Friday after emergency treatment.

It had been reported earlier that the doctor was receiving treatment with Ecmo (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation) and medics were attempting to resuscitate him.​

In December, Dr Li was accused of spreading rumours by Chinese police and summoned to a government Public Security Bureau, where he was warned that he should not continue to make comments that “disturb the social order”.

“We solemnly warn you: If you keep being stubborn, with such impertinence, and continue this illegal activity, you will be brought to justice – is that understood?” an official letter given to the doctor said.

China’s Supreme Court later criticised police in Wuhan for the crackdown and admitted that the information about the virus was not completely inaccurate.

Dr Li was diagnosed with coronavirus on 30 January after treating patients in the outbreak, which has killed more than 550 people and infected more than 28,000.

“We’re very sorry to hear of the loss of any frontline worker who has attempted to care for patients,” Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organisation’s Health Emergencies Programme said at a press conference in Geneva after hearing about reports of his death. “We ourselves have lost our friends in the frontline, so we should celebrate his life and mourn his death with his colleagues.”

The UK reported its third case of coronavirus on Thursday, although Chris Witty, the government’s chief medical officer, said the patient did not contract the illness in Britain.

It came just hours after China’s ambassador to London accused the UK of overreacting to the outbreak following government advice to British nationals to leave the country.

“We did tell them overreaction is not helpful,” Liu Xiaoming said. “We asked them to take the advice of the World Health Organisation [to] make a reasonable response. Do not overreact.

“All countries, including the UK, should understand and support China’s efforts, avoid overreaction, avoid creating panic, and ensure normal co-operation and exchanges between countries.”

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