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Wuhan coronavirus: Chinese whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang in critical condition

Christian Fernsby |
A Chinese doctor Li Wenliang who tried to issue the first warnings about the deadly coronavirus outbreak has died of the infection, Chinese media said but later changed the story.

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Topics: WUHAN    CORONAVIRUS   CHINESE    DOCTOR    LI WENLIANG   

Wuhan Central Hospital said on its official Weibo account that Li Wenliang, 34, had become seriously ill. "In the fight against the pneumonia epidemic of the new coronavirus infection, our hospital's ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was unfortunately infected. He is currently in critical condition and we are trying our best to resuscitate him," the statement read.

Multiple state media outlets including Global Times and People's Daily, the ruling Communist Party's official newspaper, had earlier said Li had died, but later deleted their reports.

Dr Li was declared dead at 21:30 local time today, and the news was reported by Chinese state media outlets, triggering a huge wave of popular reaction on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter.

Journalists and doctors at the scene, who do not want their names used, told the BBC and other media that government officials then intervened.

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 Wenliang was working as an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital when he sent out a warning to fellow medics on 30 December.

Police then visited him to tell him to stop, as authorities tried to keep the news under wraps.

The ophthalmologist posted his story on the Weibo site from a hospital bed a month after sending out his initial warning.

Dr Li, 34, had noticed seven cases of a virus that he thought looked like Sars - the virus that led to a global epidemic in 2003.

On 30 December he sent a message to fellow doctors in a chat group warning them to wear protective clothing to avoid infection.

Four days later he was summoned to the Public Security Bureau where he was told to sign a letter. In the letter he was accused of "making false comments" that had "severely disturbed the social order".

He was one of eight people who police said were being investigated for "spreading rumours".

Local authorities later apologised to Dr Li.

In his Weibo post he describes how on 10 January he started coughing, the next day he had a fever and two days later he was in hospital. He was diagnosed with the coronavirus on 30 January.

A number of posts on Chinese social media sites have expressed sorrow over his death.

A tweet sent out by the state run People's Daily said that Dr Li's death had sparked "national grief".


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