Beijing – A doctor who became a hero in China after sounding the alarm early on about a new coronavirus outbreak has died of the disease, the Wuhan hospital where he was being treated, said on Friday.
Li Wenliang, a 33-year-old ophthalmologist at a hospital in Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, triggered an outpour of support on social media as he was fighting the disease that has so far killed more than 600 people and infected tens of thousands.
Li had told state media that he had been reprimanded by hospital management and party officials after alerting his colleagues about a cluster of infections tied to an animal market in the city of Wuhan.
Li initially thought the disease was a resurgence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), an illness that killed hundreds across China in 2002-2003.
He became a national symbol of people’s attempts to find answers about authorities’ initial reactions to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Wuhan government has been criticised for what many saw as a failure to disclose in a timely manner the severity of the new illness, leading to possibly more infections among medical staff and the public.
A total of 31,161 infections and 636 deaths from the new coronavirus were reported across China as of Thursday, according to the National Health Commission.
The disease has also spread to more than two dozen other countries around the world.