Chinese Doc Who First Reported Coronavirus, Dies In Jail

07 February 2020


Beijing: The Chinese government governments highest anti-corruption agency is sending an investigation team to Hubei following public outrage over the death of a doctor who sounded an early alarm about the new virus that has killed 636 people in the Asian country as of Friday.

The National Supervisory Commission said the team would conduct a "comprehensive investigation" into the issues raised by the public about Li Wenliang, the 34-year-old doctor who died on Friday, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper said in a report.

The commission did not specify the issues of public concern, but angry posts on China's social media platform Weibo about why the police stopped and reprimanded Li when he warned his friends on WeChat about the new virus have overwhelmed the Internet.

Li, who worked in a Wuhan hospital, was declared dead at 2.58 a.m. on Friday morning by Wuhan Central Hospital, just days after he said he was infected with coronavirus.

Li was one of the whistle-blowers who alerted his friends about the outbreak last December, and was reprimanded by police for spreading inaccurate information.

Internet censorship was toughened in response to the outrage, with many posts on social media platforms Weibo and WeChat expressing anger and criticism of government officials quickly deleted, the SCMP said.

In a statement, the Wuhan government said: "We express our deep condolences and regrets! We pay tribute to his sticking to the front line in fighting the epidemic, and offer our sincere condolences to his family."

The development comes as the toll in China due to the fast-spreading virus increased to 636, with 31,161 confirmed cases, China's National Health Commission said on Friday morning.

On Thursday, the Commission received reports of 3,143 new confirmed cases and 73 deaths from 31 provincial-level regions and the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, Xinhua news agency reported.

It added that 4,821 patients remained in severe condition, while 26,359 others were suspected of being infected with the virus.

In a phone call on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping told his American counterpart Donald Trump on the phone that China's economic development would not be affected by the outbreak, according to CCTV, China's state broadcaster.

CCTV reported that, in a phone conversation with Trump, Xi said the Chinese government and people had put their fullest efforts into containing the outbreak since it had started.

In response, White House spokesman Judd Deere said Trump had expressed confidence in China's strength and resilience in confronting the outbreak.

Also on Friday, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) set up a special fund of 300 billion yuan ($43 billion) to provide targeted support to suppliers of key virus-related resources such as masks and sterilisers, as well as daily necessities, with China's Ministry of Finance compensating half of interest payments.

The virus has spread overseas, with 25 nations reporting confirmed cases, although there has so far been only two deaths outside mainland China in the Philippines and China.

The other countries where coronavirus cases have been reported are Japan (45), Singapore (28),
Thailand (25), Hong Kong (24), South Korea (23), Taiwan (16), Australia (14), Germany (12), the US (12), Malaysia (12), Macao (10), Vietnam (10), France (six), UAE (five), Canada (five), India (three), Philippines (three), the UK (three), Italy (two), Russia (two), Cambodia (one), Finland (one), Nepal (one), Sri Lanka (one), Spain (one) and Sweden (one), according to the BBC.