Beijing: Li Wenliang, a medical doctor and one of the first eight people to warn the public about the novel coronavirus, passed away late last night due to the infection.
The doctor’s demise has sparked anger and grief unseen on Chinese social media.
Hailed as a national hero, Li was apprehended by Wuhan police for spreading “rumours” earlier last month.
Li Wenliang died of the virus, Wuhan Central Hospital, where he worked, said in a statement. The confirmation follows a series of conflicting statements about his condition from the hospital and Chinese state media outlets.
Li was among a number of supposed “rumormongers” detained in December for spreading news about the virus. He had warned about a potential “SARS-like” virus spreading in Wuhan. Nothing Li said was incorrect, but it came as officials in the city were downplaying the severity of the outbreak and its risk to the public.
The virus has killed 636 people and infected 31,161 in mainland China, the National Health Commission’s latest figures show.
The death toll includes 73 new deaths reported on Thursday.