The director of a hospital in the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak has died from the disease despite a “full-effort rescue” to save his life, Chinese health officials said Tuesday.
Dr. Liu Zhiming, 51, was a leading neurosurgeon and director of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, the origin of this coronavirus, now called COVID-19. Liu had developed pneumonia from COVID-19 and died just before 11 a.m., according to the Wuhan health commission.
“From the start of the outbreak, Comrade Liu Zhiming, without regard to his personal safety, led the medical staff of Wuchang Hospital at the front lines of the fight against the epidemic,” the commission said, according to The New York Times. Liu had “made significant contributions to our city’s fight to prevent and control the novel coronavirus.”
Liu’s hospital was one of seven in the city that took in COVID-19 patients, and treated thousands each day, USA Today reported.
Liu is one of now 1,875 total deaths worldwide, with all but five occurring in mainland China. As of Feb. 18, there are 73,451 confirmed cases of the disease, with the vast majority also occurring in mainland China.
Liu’s death comes less than two weeks after that of another doctor in Wuhan who had been one of the first to speak out about the threat of this coronavirus. Dr. Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, was 34 at the time of his death, and had been detained by police for “rumor-mongering” after he tried to warn citizens about the disease in late December, before the Chinese government had admitted that it had started to spread.
After Li’s death, Chinese citizens revolted on their highly censored social media channels. The hashtag #WeWantFreedomOfSpeech was trending on China’s Weibo and WeChat sites, similar to Twitter, with anger-filled posts about Li’s death for several hours before censors took them down.
The Chinese government said last week that among the thousands of cases, more that 1,700 medical workers have developed COVID-19, and six have died.
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