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Chinese Doctor Disappears after Blowing the Whistle on Coronavirus Threat

A medical worker in a protective suit inspects a CT scan image in a ward at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, February 24, 2020. (China Daily via Reuters)

Wuhan doctor Ai Fen, who expressed early concerns about the coronavirus to the media, has disappeared and is believed detained by Chinese authorities.

Fen, the head of emergency at Wuhan Central Hospital, was given a warning after she disseminated information about the coronavirus to several other doctors. She recounted the reprimand in an essay titled, “The one who supplied the whistle,” which was published in China’s People (Renwu) magazine. The article has since been removed.

The reprimand from her boss came after Fen took a photo of a patient’s positive test results and circled the words ‘SARS coronavirus’ in red.

She brought several cases of coronavirus to the attention of her colleagues, eight of whom were later called in by police for revealing information about the respiratory illness, according to Radio Free Asia. One, opthalmologist Li Wenliang, warned fellow med school grads to wear protective clothing, an early warning that was condemned by authorities as “rumormongering.” Wenliang eventually died from the virus himself.

Fen’s social media account on the Chinese platform Weibo has been updated several times since her disappearance, although Chinese authorities have been known to update detainees’ social media accounts or order them to do so themselves. On Wednesday, a post appeared on her account reading “Happy April Fools Day,” with a picture of her in a lab coat and mask.

About two weeks ago, a post appeared on Fen’s account reading, “Thank you for your care and love. I’m fine at the moment and I’m still working.”

However, Fen’s whereabouts are now unknown, 60 Minutes Australia reported Monday.

China has confirmed a total of 81,554 infections and 3,312 deaths from the coronavirus.

However, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report Wednesday that China deliberately provided incomplete public numbers for coronavirus cases and deaths resulting from the infection. In December, local and national officials issued a gag order to labs in Wuhan after scientists there identified a new viral pneumonia, ordering them to halt tests, destroy samples, and conceal the news.

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