A whistle-blowing Chinese doctor who was among the first to identify the deadly new coronavirus died of the disease in Wuhan on Friday.
Li Wenliang was reprimanded by the police for "spreading rumors" about the coronavirus in December. He was among eight medical professionals who were accused of spreading "illegal and false information" about the virus.
The Wuhan hospital where Li was being treated announced his death at 2:58 am. on Friday morning after false information leaked that he died earlier in the evening. The World Health Organization tweeted condolences.
The virus has infected more than 28,200 people globally, with over 500 dead in China.
Li, who was 34, had told a group of doctors on Chinese social media and messaging platform WeChat on December 30 that seven cases of a disease similar to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) had been confirmed. They were linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, believed to be the source of the virus. Soon after he posted the message, Li was accused of rumour-mongering by the Wuhan police after screenshots of his message went viral without his name being blurred.
He was asked to sign a letter as a promise to stop spreading information about the virus. Li wrote on social media that he had tested positive for the virus on February 1. He was treated in the hospital where he worked as an opthalmologist. He was one of several medics targeted by the police for trying to blow the whistle on the deadly virus in the early weeks of the outbreak.
Overall 564 people have died in China due to the virus and 28,018 confirmed cases have been reported from 31 provincial-level regions, the National Health Commission reported on Thursday.
With inputs from PTI