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Hospital director at epicentre of China’s virus epidemic dies

Dr Liu Zhiming is second prominent doctor to die in China's Covid-19 fight

BEIJING: A hospital director at the epicentre of China's virus epidemic died yesterday, state media said, the latest medical worker to fall victim to the coronavirus spreading across the country.

The virus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan late last year, has infected more than 72,000 people and killed nearly 1,900.

Dr Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, died yesterday morning after "all-out rescue efforts failed," state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Mr Liu's death was initially reported by Chinese media and bloggers shortly after midnight yesterday - but the stories were later deleted and replaced with reports that doctors were still trying to save him.

GRIEF

After initial reports of his death were denied, the hospital said yesterday morning that doctors were giving him life-saving treatment.

Dr Liu's death has echoes of that of Wuhan ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, who had been punished by authorities for sounding the alarm about the virus in late December.

Dr Li's death prompted a national outpouring of grief as well as anger against the authorities, who were accused of mishandling the crisis.

Doctors and nurses in Hubei province - where the outbreak originated and which has reported the majority of deaths - have been lionised online and by state media.

People took to social media to mourn Dr Liu, with many users on the Twitter-like Weibo platform drawing critical comparisons between Dr Liu's death and Dr Li's.

In both cases their deaths were initially reported in state media posts - later deleted - and then denied, before being finally confirmed.

A hashtag about Dr Liu's death had 29 million views by yesterday afternoon.

A new study has shown that 3,019 health workers have been diagnosed, 1,716 of whom were confirmed cases, and five had died as of Feb 11.

The paper published in the Chinese Journal of Epidemiology looked at 72,314 confirmed, suspected, clinically diagnosed, and asymptomatic cases of illness across China as of Feb 11.

An analysis of 1,688 severe cases among medical staff showed that 64 per cent of them were working in Wuhan.

"The percentage of severe cases among Wuhan medical staff has gradually decreased from 38.9 per cent at the peak (on Jan 28) to 12.7 per cent in early February," the report said.

There was good news for front-line workers yesterday.

Their children will be awarded extra exam points when applying for schools and higher education, local officials said yesterday.

Children of medical workers applying for high school this year can receive an additional 10 points in their entrance exams, while younger children will be prioritised for admission at public kindergartens, according to officials.

The measures will "further care for the province's front-line medical staff" and encourage them to be more "resolute" in their fight to contain the virus, the province said in a statement. - AFP

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