A Chinese doctor who warned authorities in Wuhan about an emerging new coronavirus has died, according to a hospital in Wuhan, after conflicting reports about his health.
The Wuhan Central Hospital said on its social media account that Dr. Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist, was “unfortunately infected during the fight against the pneumonia epidemic of the new coronavirus infection.”
“We deeply regret and mourn this,” it added.
The hospital’s social media post received nearly 500,000 comments in the first half-hour afterward, with many people hoping Li would pull through. One wrote: “We are not going to bed, we are here waiting for a miracle.”
Li, a doctor working in Wuhan, had posted online in late December about a number of cases of pneumonia that appeared to be linked to a local seafood market, CNN reported. He was later reprimanded by local authorities for spreading rumours.
The Chinese state-run news outlet Global Times had initially reported that Li had died, but a few hours later said that he was alive and in critical condition in hospital. It later said that Li had, in fact, died.
On Thursday, after the initial reports of Li’s death, the World Health Organization tweeted its condolences, saying “we all need to celebrate” the work he did on the novel coronavirus.
As of Thursday morning, there were more than 28,000 cases of the novel coronavirus in China, with 563 deaths, according to WHO officials. There have been two deaths outside mainland China: one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines.
— with files from the Associated Press