Doctor Punished for Warning Friends of Coronavirus Dies after Becoming Infected

Medical staff transfer a patient of a highly suspected case of a new coronavirus at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong, China January 22, 2020. (cnsphoto/ China Out via Reuters )

Update 4:00 p.m.: Dr. Li Wenliang, one of eight doctors punished by Chinese authorities for warning people of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, died on Thursday after battling the illness.

State media had erroneously reported Li’s death earlier in the day, while the doctor was in fact in critical condition.

“An all-out effort to save him was unsuccessful,” the Wuhan Central Hospital wrote on its account on Weibo, a popular Chinese social media app. “We deeply grieve the loss.”


Update 2:30 p.m.: Dr. Li Wenliang is in critical condition according to Wuhan Central Hospital. Earlier reports that Li had died were found to be incorrect.

The World Health Organization, which initially marked Li’s death on Twitter, retracted its statement.

At today’s [coronavirus] media briefing Dr. Mike Ryan was asked about reports that Dr Li Wenliang had passed away, and he expressed condolences. WHO has no information on the status of Dr Li,” the W.H.O. posted on Twitter.


Dr. Li Wenliang — an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, who was punished by city authorities for warning medical school friends about the coronavirus outbreak — has died after being infected with the virus.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr Li Wenliang. We all need to celebrate work that he did on [the coronavirus],” the World Health Organization posted on its Twitter account.

On December 30 Li sent a warning to friends via Chinese text-messaging app Weibo that doctors in Wuhan had treated seven patients with a SARS-like illness after they had visited a seafood market in the city. While he asked that his messages remain confidential, hours later he saw that several of the messages had gone viral on Chinese social media.

Li was one of eight doctors who was punsihed by Wuhan authorities for attempting to warn others about the coronavirus. On January 3, Wuhan police reprimanded Li for “spreading rumors online” and “severely disrupting social order.”

The doctor later told CNN he could do nothing about the punishment because he feared he would be separated from his family. Li contracted the coronavirus in early January after treating an infected patient at the hospital.

The Global Times, the Chinese Communist Party’s English-language newspaper, initially tweeted confirmation that Li had died. However, the tweet was later deleted.

The novel coronavirus has infected over 28,000 people, the vast majority in China, and killed over 560. In response, the Trump administration has banned foreign citizens who recently visited China from entering the U.S. and imposed mandatory quarantine measures on U.S. citizens and their families returning from the region.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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