A Chinese doctor who blew the whistle on the outbreak of the coronavirus is said to be in a critical condition after initial reports that he had died.
Dr Li Wenliang, 34, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, sent a message in a chat group on 30 December to fellow doctors warning them of a possible virus outbreak.
He was then told by police to stop “making false comments”.
Last week, Dr Li said he had been diagnosed with coronavirus.
Earlier today, Chinese media reports reported he had died in hospital in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak originated.
The World Health Organisation even paid tribute to the doctor, with Dr. Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, saying he was “very sad”.
“We should celebrate his life and mourn his death with his colleagues,” he added.
However, soon after, the state-run outlet Global News issued an update saying Dr Li was “critically ill” after his heart stopped beating.
Update: Li Wenliang is currently in critical condition. His heart reportedly stopped beating at around 21:30. He was then given treatment with ECMO(extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation). https://t.co/ljhMSwHBXB— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) February 6, 2020
At around 5pm on Thursday, the Global Times posted another tweet saying Dr Li was still under emergency treatment.
They said reporters had heard “people weeping” inside the intensive care unit and described Li as one of “8 whistleblowers who tried to warn other medics of the #coronavirus outbreak in Dec but were reprimanded by Wuhan police”.
The South China Morning Post reported Wuhan hospital saying on its official Weibo account that doctors were trying to “resuscitate” Dr Li.
Dr Li shared the warning after he noticed seven cases of a virus he thought resembles Sars, the deadly illness which spread in 2003.
Four days after his warning he was called to a police station to sign a letter in which he was accused of “making false comments” that had “severely disturbed the social order”.
He then shared a social media post saying he started coughing on 10 January, and was hospitalised with a fever three days later.
According to the BBC, he wrote: “Today nucleic acid testing came back with a positive result, the dust has settled, finally diagnosed.”
As of Thursday, the global death toll from coronavirus was 565, with the number of confirmed cases being 28,273.
Some 260 cases have been recorded outside China, including three in the UK. One case was confirmed earlier on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Chinese ambassador to the UK warned against “rumours and panic” over coronavirus after concerns were raised that Boris Johnson has not offered a personal message of support to China’s leaders.
Speaking to reporters in London, Liu Xiaoming called on the UK government to support China in its handling of the outbreak, but insisted relations between Chinese president Xi Jinping and the British PM are good.
He said: “It is of hope that governments of all countries, including the UK, should understand and support China’s efforts, avoid overreaction, avoid creating panic, and ensure normal co-operation and exchanges between countries.”