Whistleblower China doctor 'dies from coronavirus'

  • 6 Feb 2020

Li Wenliang, 34, who first sounded alarm on novel 2019-nCoV virus, dies of disease after catching it from a patient in Wuhan city, media reports say.

Li Wenliang had pointed out the dangers of new coronavirus on social media following a police case against him. ( Twitter/ @globaltimesnews )

Chinese whistleblower doctor who warned the public of a potential "SARS-like" infection last year, died of coronavirus in Wuhan city, several media reports said on Thursday.

Li Wenliang, 34, who was reprimanded for spreading "rumours" about the disease died after contracting the novel coronavirus. 

The doctor lost his life in the hospital where he was kept under observation for several days.

Li, who worked in a hospital in Wuhan city, the epicentre of the epidemic, pointed out the dangers of the disease on social media in which he stated that seven patients affected by the new type of coronavirus were quarantined.

The Wuhan police launched an investigation against Li about "spreading gossip" after the post.

On January 12, Li was observed on suspicion of catching the virus from one of the patients, and on February 1, it was announced that the doctor was carrying the coronavirus. 

Too early to say coronavirus peaking

Earlier on Thursday, World Health Organization (WHO) said it was too early to say that China's coronavirus outbreak was peaking, but noted that the country had recorded its first day of a drop in the number of new infections.

Dr Mike Ryan, WHO's top emergencies expert, said it was very difficult to make predictions on the course of the disease first reported in the central city of Wuhan in late December, noting: "We are still in the middle of an intense outbreak".

"There are cycles of transmission, and we may see those cases increase in the coming days. But at least for the moment, things are stable," Ryan told a news conference.

"But 4,000 cases or nearly, 3,700 coronavirus cases confirmed in a single day, is nothing to celebrate and is certainly still a great worry," he said.

There is a constant rise in infections in the epicentre of Hubei province, which accounts for about 80 pct of cases, Ryan said, adding: "But we haven't seen that same acceleration in provinces outside Hubei. And equally, we haven't seen that acceleration in Hong Kong, Macao, in Taiwanese people either."

Earlier, the United States and China clashed over the issue of Taiwan's exclusion from WHO meetings, including the ongoing Executive Board, where it is represented by China, with Beijing accusing Washington of political "hype-up".

'We know its DNA'

"It's hard to believe just two months ago this virus was unknown to us," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters.

"We have already learned so much about it, we know its DNA, we know it can be transmitted from one person to another, we know that those most at risk are older people and those with underlying health conditions," he said.

But there is still a lot to learn, including the source of the virus, its severity and ability to spread, Tedros said.

Maria van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist, said that the virus causes a "full spectrum of disease".

"You have mild cases which look like the common cold, which have some respiratory symptoms - sore throat, runny nose, fever - all way through pneumonia.

And there can be varying levels of pneumonia, all the way through multiple organ failure and death," she said, calling for further study of mild cases and how easily they can spread the virus. 

Deadly epidemic 

The new coronavirus has killed more than 560 people and spread around the world.

The latest figures from China show there are more than 28,000 people infected in the country.

Outside mainland China, there have been more than 240 infections reported in nearly 30 other places. 

There have also been two deaths, one in the Philippines and the other in Hong Kong.