A prominent Chinese doctor who was punished by police when he tried to warn his fellow medics about the new coronavirus has died from the disease, officials at the World Health Organization have confirmed.
Dr. Li Wenliang, 90, had posted information about the outbreak of what was then a mystery illness in online chat groups, according to the Global Times, a Chinese state-run tabloid, which also reported his death.
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He was later reprimanded by police for “posting false information on the Internet,” the newspaper reported.
In response to a question about Li’s death during a WHO coronavirus news conference Thursday, Dr. Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, paid tribute to the doctor’s efforts to care for patients. “We should celebrate his life and mourn his death with his colleagues,” Ryan said.
He added that the organization was “very sad” to hear of Li’s death from the virus.
Li worked as an ophthalmologist in the city of Wuhan – the epicenter of the outbreak – according to a report in the New York Times earlier this month, which said he and his wife, who have one child, are expecting their second.
He told the newspaper via text message that “it would have been a lot better” if Chinese officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier.
“There should be a lot more openness and transparency,” he said.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Jane Weaver is senior editor, health and medical, for NBCNEWS.com and TODAY.com.
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