Coronavirus kills Chinese whistleblower doctor; death toll rises to 636

A Chinese doctor who tried to issue the first warnings about the deadly coronavirus outbreak has died, the hospital treating him has said.

Li Wenliang contracted the virus while working at Wuhan Central Hospital.

He had sent out a warning to fellow medics on 30 December but police told him to stop “making false comments”.

There had been contradictory reports about his death, but the People’s Daily now says he died at 02:58 on Friday (18:58 GMT Thursday).

The virus has killed 636 people and infected 31,161 in mainland China, the National Health Commission’s latest figures show.

The death toll includes 73 new deaths reported on Thursday.

The virus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever, followed by a dry cough.

Most people infected are likely to fully recover – just as they would from a flu.

How was the death reported?

Global Times, People’s Daily and other Chinese media reported Dr Li’s death earlier on Thursday.

Dr Li, 34, was initially declared dead at 21:30 local time and the news triggered a huge wave of popular reaction on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.

The People’s Daily sent out a tweet saying Dr Li’s death had sparked “national grief”.

However, Global Times then said he had been given a treatment known as ECMO (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation) which keeps a person’s heart pumping and keeps their blood oxygenated without it going through their lungs.

Global Times said he was in a critical condition.

Journalists and doctors at the scene, who do not want their names used, told the BBC and other media that government officials had intervened.

Official media outlets had been told to change their reports to say the doctor was still being treated.

The media outlets then later reported the new time of Dr Li’s death:

Most of those killed by coronavirus have been over the age of 60 or have suffered from other medical conditions, according to China’s health authorities. Dr Li’s medical history is not known. BBC

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