Li Wenliang, a Wuhan doctor and hospital worker who reportedly tried to warn the Chinese public about the emerging coronavirus, died of the disease Thursday according to the Washington Post, as the death toll reached over 560 and over 28,000 people have become infected.
- According to CNN, after seeing patients exhibiting similar symptoms, Li attempted to warn the public about a “SARS-like” disease in December 2019 through posts on WeChat, a popular Chinese social networking app.
- Although Li asked friends to share the information privately, the posts went viral and his name was not blurred out.
- Li was subsequently reprimanded by Wuhan police and forced to sign a letter accusing him of “spreading rumors online” and “severely disrupting social order.”
- CNN reported that Li was hospitalized January 12 and was formally diagnosed with coronavirus on February 1.
- “We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Li Wenliang,” wrote the World Health Organization (WHO) on Twitter, adding that “we all need to celebrate the work he did on [coronavirus].”
- China’s highest court ended up scolding Wuhan’s police in January, saying if officials there had “believed those ‘rumors,’ and wore masks, used disinfectant and avoided going to the wildlife market as if there were a SARS outbreak, perhaps it would’ve meant we could better control the coronavirus today.”
Crucial quote: “Finally diagnosed,” Li wrote on February 1 in what became his last post on Weibo, another Chinese social networking platform. The post drew tens of thousands of comments from well-wishers, including one who wrote “Dr. Li, you are a good doctor with conscience,” according to a translation.
Key background: Just two of the over 560 coronavirus deaths have occurred outside of China. WHO declared the virus an international health emergency on January 30, but has not yet classified the outbreak as a pandemic despite its continued spread. The U.S. has 11 confirmed cases, and flights from China are being redirected to 11 American airports that are screening those travelers. The illness, which first broke out in a Wuhan food market in December, has since spread to almost 30 countries and impacted local tourism and travel. Companies like McDonald’s, Starbucks, IKEA, Hyundai, Tesla, Disney and more have temporarily closed their doors in affected areas. The country of Macau, considered the world’s gambling capital, shut down its casino business Tuesday in response to the outbreak, which has sickened 10 people there. Several countries, including the U.S., are denying entry to visitors from Wuhan, and advising against travel to China, while several international airlines have suspended flights to the country. Millions in the mainland have been on lockdown since the Lunar New Year holiday ended January 25.
What to watch for: More reported cases of coronavirus. Three Americans aboard a Diamond Princess cruise ship were confirmed to have the disease Thursday, with 20 passengers total diagnosed. The ship is docked and quarantined in Japan’s Yokohama harbor. WHO announced Thursday it will convene a global forum in Geneva February 11 and 12 to accelerate research and innovation in responding to the virus.
The Wuhan Central Hospital emergency training facility, photographed in July 2019.
-Photo caption: The Wuhan Central Hospital emergency training facility, photographed in July 2019.