BEIJING: The Chinese doctor who was detained by police for sounding the alarm on a mysterious new SARS-like virus spreading in a Wuhan hospital last December has died from the coronavirus disease.
Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at the Wuhan central hospital, leaves behind a wife pregnant with their second child. She is in intensive care suffering from severe infection and receiving emergency treatment.
Li’s parents had contracted the disease but are said to be doing better. The 34-year-old died of complications resulting from the coronavirus infection on Thursday evening.
On December 30, Li chanced upon a test result of a patient who had been admitted to his hospital with a new, unidentified disease. He shared the information on a private WeChat group with seven other friends, saying that from the results it looked like SARS, an epidemic which killed hundreds in China between 2002-03 but was initially covered up by the government.
Li was a teenager then but clearly remembered the impact of the epidemic. He said he only wanted to warn friends about the disease but his post went viral.
The young doctor and his friends were soon summoned by the Wuhan police for spreading rumours, harassed, detained and then forced to sign a confession. After his release, he went back to the hospital to work and in the second week of January contracted the disease.
Li caught the disease while treating a patient with an eye problem but was also down with the Coronavirus but he was unaware. He was hospitalised on January 12 and in the following days, as his condition deteriorated, he was admitted to the intensive care unit. On February 1, Li tested positive for coronavirus.
Last week, the Supreme People’s Court criticised Li’s detention, saying it might have been a fortunate thing if the public had believed the ‘rumour’ and started wearing masks.
The death of Li triggered an outpouring of grief on China’s Twitter-like Weibo with several hailing him as a hero who sacrificed his life to treat the sick but many also posted angry messages.