A Chinese doctor who tried to warn fellow medics of the coronavirus outbreak has died after contracting the virus himself, according to state-run media.

Ophthalmologist Dr Li Wenliang – aged 34 – passed away at 2:58am on Friday after hours of confusion over his fate.

He underwent emergency at Wuhan Central Hospital late on Thursday as state-run news outlets, including Global Times, CGTN, Beijing News and Caixin, retracted reports that he had died.

Li Wenliang
Li Wenliang. Photo: Li Wenliang.

Condolences had already begun pouring in across Chinese social media, with the World Health Organization paid tribute: “We all need to celebrate work that he did on #2019nCoV.”

Li was among eight people reprimanded by police in December for “rumour-mongering” over the SARS-like virus, though he was later hailed as a “whistleblower” in state media posts.

Li had told other medics in a chat message that they should wear protective clothing to avoid infection. He was summoned by the Public Security Bureau where officers made him sign a letter stating that he had made “false comments” and had “severely disturbed the social order.”

Local authorities eventually apologised to Li, but – in January – he contracted the virus whilst he was treating a woman with glaucoma, according to the BBC. “Today nucleic acid testing came back with a positive result, the dust has settled, finally diagnosed,” he wrote last Thursday on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.

There have been over 28,000 confirmed cases of new infections worldwide and over 560 deaths – including one in Hong Kong, according to official figures.

The novel virus resembles the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed more than 300 people in Hong Kong in 2003.

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