A young doctor from Wuhan, China, who attempted to alert the world about the spreading coronavirus in December, has died after becoming infected with the virus in Wuhan Central Hospital. There has been confusion around his death, as notice of the time of his death was altered by officials.
Dr. Li Wenliang, 33, an ophthalmologist, posted a warning to fellow medics on Dec. 30, after he had observed seven cases of a virus that were very similar to the SARS virus, and he had suggested medical staff be mindful of wearing protective clothing to avoid infection.
Four days later, the Public Security Bureau summoned him and demanded he sign a letter, accusing him of spreading rumors, and “making false comments” that had “severely disturbed the social order.” Li agreed not to voice his concerns in public again, reported The Guardian.
Li posted on Weibo, describing how he had become infected with the coronavirus. He said he began coughing on Jan.10, followed by a fever the following day, and two days later he was admitted to hospital.
Li was confirmed to have the virus on Jan. 30.
After contradictory reports about his death, the People’s Daily now says he died at 02:58 on Friday(local time). Global Times, People’s Daily, and other Chinese media had reported Dr. Li’s death earlier on Thursday.
The news triggered a massive reaction on Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter.
Confusion set in about the doctor’s death when the Global Times then reported Li was in a critical condition and had been receiving ECMO (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation,) a treatment where the heart is kept pumping and supplied with oxygen, bypassing the lungs.
Journalists and doctors at the scene, afraid of giving their names, told the BBC and other media that government officials had intervened.
Official media sites were directed to alter their reports and to instead report Li was alive and being treated, reported the BBC. It is not known if Li was suffering from any underlying condition that may have exacerbated his condition.
Media outlets then put out new information on the time of the doctor’s death—2.58 a.m., Feb. 7.
We deeply mourn the death of #Wuhan doctor Li wenliang, who unfortunately got infected with novel #Coronavirus while battling with the epidemic. After all-effort rescue, Li passed away on 2:58 am, Feb. 7. pic.twitter.com/mbYA3wB4pn
— People's Daily, China (@PDChina) February 6, 2020
Although the official figures in China have climbed to more than 30,000 infections, there are some scientists who estimate the number of infected people could be 10 times higher, with many of those infected only presenting with minor symptoms, but still with the ability to pass on the deadly virus to others.