Li Wenliang – one of the first doctors who tried to alert the public about the coronavirus outbreak, only to be reprimanded by local police – has died, Wuhan Central Hospital confirmed early Friday morning, hours after it initially denied reports of his death.
“In the fight against the pneumonia epidemic of the new coronavirus infection, our hospital’s ophthalmologist, Li Wenliang, was unfortunately infected. He passed away after all the efforts we’ve taken to resuscitate him. We deeply mourn his passing,” the hospital said on its official Weibo account.
Li, 34, died at 2.58am on Friday, the hospital added.
The announcement capped several chaotic hours in which Chinese media first reported Li’s death, only for the hospital to respond that Li was alive, though in critical condition.
The earlier reports of Li’s death by multiple Chinese outlets, including Beijing News and Global Times, triggered an outpouring of mourning and tribute both on Chinese social media and at health agencies trying to stem the outbreak.
“We are very sorry to hear the loss of any frontline worker who is committed to care for patients … we should celebrate his life and mourn his death with his colleagues,” said Michael Ryan, director of the World Health Organisation’s health emergencies programme, said during a briefing on Thursday.
Chinese social media has been awash with anger over the death of the whistle-blower – some mourning Li’s death with candles, some demanding that the authorities apologise for the way they had treated him