Coronavirus Doctor Dies: The Last Fight Of Li Wenliang, nCoV Whistleblower

Salena Harshini |Feb 10, 2020

Everyone is in tremendous grief that one of the first coronavirus whistleblowers, Li Wenliang, has passed away from the disease. Read more about the story of his last fight amidst the chaos.

The first to protect others is the first to die

Li Wenliang, the whistleblower doctor who first warned everybody about coronavirus had passed away. He was among the first doctors to alert the world against nCoV.

The death of the doctor is creating rage among Chinese citizens. Doctor Li died on the morning of February 7 from nCoV – the fatal virus that he himself discovered in the first place. He tried to alert the community but was prevented and criticized by the authorities.

Dr. Li Wenliang before and after he was infected.

On December 30, 2019, Dr. Li sent a message to a WeChat group including 150 doctors who were his former classmates, warning them about 7 cases of virus infection which he thought were similar to SARS.

"They are in isolation at the emergency department of our hospital," he wrote, adding that the patients were related to wildlife trading Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. He advised his friends to wear protective clothing to avoid the virus. Hardly anyone can believe that there would be the day the coronavirus doctor dies because of the virus.

Dr. Li explained that according to a test he carried out, the infection came from an entirely new coronavirus – similar to those that once caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

China has a terrible memory of SARS, the 2003 pandemic that killed hundreds after the government tried to cover it up. "I just want to remind my college classmates to be careful," said Li Wenliang.

But within a few hours, screenshots of his messages spread through social networks. He said when he saw them being widely shared online, he realized it was going out of his control and that he could receive punishment.

And he was right.

Dr. Li, infected with the coronavirus from a patient he treated, was in intensive care.

Shortly after the message went places, Wuhan police charged Li Wenliang for spreading false rumors. He was among those targeted by the police for "trying to exaggerate about deadly virus" in the first weeks of the outbreak. As of this morning 7/2, Coronavirus has claimed at least 635 lives, including Li.

On February 1, the doctor confirmed with CNN that he was diagnosed positive with nCoV. His wife, pregnant, is also infected with the coronavirus.

People across China are in a rage over the weak government and their initial delay in alerting citizens about the fatal bug.

Coronavirus Doctor used to be summoned by the police

On the day Li texted his friends, an urgent notice was issued by the Wuhan City Health Committee, informing local health organizations that a series of patients from the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market had "pneumonia of unknown cause".

The notice comes with a warning: "Any organization or individual is not allowed to disclose information to the public without permission."

In the early morning of December 31, health authorities Of Wuhan set up an emergency meeting for the discussion of the outbreak. Later, Li was summoned by hospital officials, asking for an explanation of how he knew about the incident, according to Beijing Youth.

Later in that day, Wuhan government made an announcement of the outbreak and notified the WHO. But it was not the end for Dr. Li's troubles.

The report he posted on Weibo, shortly before the coronavirus doctor dies.

On January 3, he was summoned to a local police house and censured for "spreading false information that seriously disturbed social order".

In that message, Dr. Li said the patients were diagnosed with SARS-like illness, citing test results showing that the source tested positive for the SARS virus had a "high confidence factor". He clarified in another message that this is actually another type of coronavirus.

Li had to sign a statement acknowledging his "misconduct" and promising not to "violate the law".

Doctor Li was afraid he would be detained. "My family will be worried if I lose my freedom for a few days," he told CNN via WeChat message because he coughed so much and had trouble breathing that he could not talk on the phone.

Fortunately, after an hour, they allowed Li to leave the police station. Wuhan Police and Wuhan City Health Commission declined to comment on this matter.

Li Wenliang returned to work at Wuhan Central Hospital but felt helpless. He said: "I can't do anything. Everything has to follow the government."

On 10/1, after accidentally being in contact with an infected patient in Wuhan, the doctor started coughing and had a fever the next day. He was hospitalized on 12/1.

During the next days, Li's condition worsened, so bad that he was taken to intensive care and assisted with oxygen breathing.

On 1/2, Li Wenliang was tested positive for coronavirus.

>>> Also Read: Heart-Wrenching Moment Of Baby With Coronavirus: Father Cried Outside Window

The truth unveiled

From the outset, the Chinese government wanted to control the information about nCoV.

On January 1, Wuhan police announced their "taking legal actions" against eight people recently "announcing and spreading rumors online" about a disease like pneumonia and "causing bad impact to society ".

"The Internet is not an outlaw area... Any illegal fabrication, rumor spreading and social order disrupting will be punished by the police in law and without mercy," as per a Police's statement on Weibo, China's social networking platform which is similar to Twitter.

Police announcements were broadcast across the country on CCTV, clearly showing how the Chinese government will handle the "gossips".

Chinese police officers wearing masks stood in front of Tiananmen Gate on January 26, in Beijing.

For the next two weeks, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission remained the only source of updates on the disease. On 7/1, Chinese scientists pinpointed the pathogen as a type of new coronavirus. In about a week, no new cases were confirmed and announced.

Health officials said there was "no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission", there was no infection to health workers, and the disease "was preventable and manageable."

On January 31, Dr. Li wrote an article on Weibo about what he felt during all that time: "I wonder why the official government announcements still say there is no transmission from person to person, and no medical personnel was infected. "

After that, there was a sudden change. On January 17, the Wuhan government reported only 41 cases of virus infection. But on January 20, that number soared to 198.

On 20/1, President Xi Jinping commanded: "to resolutely stop the spread" of coronavirus and emphasized the need for timely information disclosure. That night, a government-appointed respiratory specialist, who fought SARS 17 years ago announced on CCTV that the new coronavirus could be transmitted via person-to-person way.

Three days later, authorities put Wuhan - the economic and transportation center of central China, into quarantine. However, 5 million people left the city for Chinese New Year holiday.

Now, there is no region in the country that the virus hasn’t spread to, including the remote western border of Xinjiang and the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Funeral home workers disinfect themselves after handling a virus-infected body in Wuhan, central Hubei province, China, January 30. (Photo: AP)

In an interview with CCTV on January 27, Wuhan mayor Zhou Qian Wang admitted that his administration did not notify the news of coronavirus "in a timely manner".

The mayor explained that according to Chinese law on infectious diseases, local governments should first report the outbreak to the national health authority, and only disclose it after the approval of ones from a higher level.

About the late notification, Mayor Zhou Qian Wang said he hoped everybody can understand this is an infectious illness and the regarded news will have special channels disclosed according to the law.

>>> More shocking details at: Korean Film "Flu" Predicts Coronavirus Outbreak: Shocking Similarities Between Reel And Real Life

A chaotic community

By the end of January, many internet users argued that the "rumor" group of eight people’s early warnings may have saved hundreds of lives.

The number of people calling for vindication for eight people increased, even on the state media. President Xi Jinping's request for timely information is considered a green light for reports regarding coronavirus. Chinese journalists began to investigate them and investigate in depth.

After Beijing Youth Magazine interviewed Dr. Li Wenliang, the article was shared on social networks. As public anger intensified, China's Supreme Court on January 28 criticized the Wuhan police for punishing "the gossips".

The first patients at the hospital temporarily converted from centers in Wuhan. (Photo: Reuters.)

Under pressure from the public, Wuhan police issued a statement the next day, stating that eight people had only made a "particularly small" mistake because they distributed "unverified information". The police said that they only summoned them to speak without detention or punishment.

On February 1, another person shared her story in Chinese newspapers. Xie Linka, an oncologist at Wuhan Link Hospital, told Chinese media that she received a warning from police after alerting her colleagues in a WeChat group on the evening of 30/12.

In the message, Xie sent a warning to the doctors about an infectious disease: "Do not go to the Huanan seafood market in the upcoming days. Some people there were found to have strange pneumonia similar to SARS. Today, our hospital receives many patients from the market. Everyone remember to wear masks."

Dr. Li was relieved after reading comments from the Supreme Court, taking it as a sign that the central government prevented the introduction of strict punishment.


On Li's Weibo, thousands of people left comments showing their appreciation towards Li for speaking up and wishing him a speedy recovery. "Dr. Li, you're a good and conscientious doctor. I hope you're safe and healthy," one of the most supportive comments said.

Others question what would happen if Li's warning was noticed. "If Wuhan heeded his warning back then and took positive precautions, where we stand now, a month later, could be a completely different picture," said one Weibo user.

Unfortunately, his demise came so soon, leaving everyone in grief. That the coronavirus doctor dies from the disease he tried to warn everyone about is the irony that leaves people even more raged upon the government system.

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