The doctor who tried to warn everyone about nCov was initially arrested and punished. Weeks later, he died from the same virus.
Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan City Central Hospital and the widely regarded hero and whistleblower of the threat of the novel coronavirus (nCov) infection, has succumbed to death due to nCov, joining 600 other Chinese casualties of the epidemic at 2:58 a.m. on Friday, February 7.
Dr. Li “had the misfortune to be infected during the fight against the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic, and all-out efforts to save him failed,” announced Wuhan City Central Hospital via the Chinese social media service Weibo, in an effort to clear the rumors about Li’s condition. “He died at 2:58 am on Feb 7 after attempts to resuscitate were unsuccessful,” the hospital added.
Confusion about his death surfaced after he was incorrectly announced to be dead via unconfirmed social news Thursday night. This unleashed uproar among the citizens prompting statements like “We will not forget the doctor who spoke up about an illness that was called rumor,” or, “What else can we do? The only thing is not to forget.”
Prior to the outbreak, 36-year-old Li had been nothing but one of the many unnamed ophthalmologist in Wuhan, expecting a second child with his wife. As the viral outbreak worsened globally, Li who initially became the whistleblower but was punished for raising the warning bell about the infection, has become the catalyst to review information on the severity of the coronavirus threat – and any possible misstep taken by the government in handling it.
As troubling as the Chinese’ efforts to downplay the severity of the infection outbreak, Dr. Li’s death also exposed a disturbing aspect missing in official statistics: the number of doctors, nurses, support staff, and medical workers who are infected and dying as they fight the spread of the virus.
Unverified reports showed photos of what looks like government statistical tally of hospital workers infected by nCov in Wuhan. An expert also shared that early on in the outbreak, one patient single-handedly infected a total of 14 hospital staff.
The number of non-nCov deaths among health workers trying to contain the virus are also reportedly increasing at an alarming rate. This week alone, a pharmacist and a health official also died, both from a heart attack after working nonstop while helping the motorist screening process all over the affected regions.
“If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier,” Dr. Li, a fighter til the very end, had said from his sickbed, “I think it would have been a lot better.”
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