A Chinese doctor who was among the first to warn the public of a potential coronavirus epidemic has died of the illness at age 34.
Dr Li Wenliang, who worked as an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, passed away on Thursday after a battle with the infection, which has killed 563 people and infected some 28,000.
There was confusion earlier as the facility that he was being treated in contradicted state media and said he was in a critical condition.
The Global Times and People’s daily deleted their reports, but have now confirmed his death.
The medic caught public attention when he was criticised for revealing that seven patients from a local seafood market had been diagnosed with a SARS-like illness and were quarantined in his hospital on December 30.
He had told friends over a private message, but within hours screenshots of his warning had gone viral and he was accused of ‘making false comments’ that had ‘severely disturbed the social order’ by the Wuhan Police.
Summoned to the Public Security Bureau, he was reportedly ordered to sign a letter acknowledging his ‘misdemeanor’ and promising not to commit further ‘unlawful acts’.
Dr Wenliang told CNN he feared at the time he was going to be detained, saying: ‘My family would worry sick about me, if I lose my freedom for a few days’.
Local authorities later apologised to Dr Li, according to reports.
On January 10, the doctor began coughing and the next day he had a fever.
He was admitted to hospital two days later and diagnosed with the coronavirus on January 30.
Chinese social media sites eruppted into grief and anger following the news of his death.
The reports came as a third person in the UK has tested positive for coronavirus.
The patient is believed to have been diagnosed in Brighton and is currently being taken to an infectious diseases unit in London.
Health officials said the person did not acquire the virus in China but may have caught it elsewhere in Asia.
Hospitals in England have been told to create ‘priority assessment pods’ for people with suspected coronavirus, amid fears of an outbreak in the UK.
China has built two hospitals to deal with the growing number of cases, but say the situation is under control.
Outside mainland China, at least 260 cases have been confirmed, including two deaths in Hong Kong and the Philippines.
On Tuesday, the UK government advised some 30,000 British nationals living in China to leave immediately if possible.
British citizens have been evacuated on flights out of Wuhan, with more than 80 people now under quarantine at Arrow Park Hospital in Wirral.
Some 78 Britons are among 3,700 people in isolation on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan where 20 passengers have been confirmed to have coronavirus.
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