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Fate of Wuhan doctor who warned of coronavirus unclear after state media reports death

A Chinese doctor who tried to warn fellow medics of the coronavirus outbreak is reportedly in a critical condition after contracting the virus himself.

Ophthalmologist Dr Li Wenliang – reported to be aged 34 – is undergoing treatment at Wuhan Central Hospital, according to Global Times. The state-run tabloid – along with CGTN, Beijing News and Caixin – reported earlier on Thursday that he had passed away.

Li Wenliang

Li Wenliang. Photo: Li Wenliang.

“His heart reportedly stopped beating at around 21:30. He was then given treatment with ECMO (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation,” a Global Times tweet said.

Li was among eight people reprimanded by police in December for “rumour-mongering” over the SARS-like virus, though he was later hailed as a “whistleblower” in state media posts.

Li had told other medics in a chat message that they should wear protective clothing to avoid infection. He was summoned by the Public Security Bureau where officers made him sign a letter stating that he had made “false comments” and had “severely disturbed the social order.”

Local authorities eventually apologised to Li, but – in January – he contracted the virus whilst he was treating a woman with glaucoma, according to the BBC. “Today nucleic acid testing came back with a positive result, the dust has settled, finally diagnosed,” he wrote last Thursday on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.

There have been over 28,000 confirmed cases of new infections worldwide and over 560 deaths – including one in Hong Kong, according to official figures.

The novel virus resembles the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed more than 300 people in Hong Kong in 2003.

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