Dr. Liu Zhiming, a neurologist and director of Wuchang Hospital in the troubled city of Wuhan, China, was reportedly killed by the coronavirus on Tuesday.
Liu is the highest-ranking Chinese medical official to be killed by the virus so far. At least six other health care workers have died from the disease and over 1,700 have taken ill.
Liu was 51 years old and in good health, so he joins the late whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang as evidence the coronavirus does not kill only the elderly and those with severe pre-existing conditions. Li Wenliang was only 34 years old when the virus killed him two weeks ago.
As with Dr. Li, the Chinese Communist Party scrambled to control the political fallout from Dr. Liu’s death, delaying public acknowledgment, leading to what the Epoch Times described as “confusion” about Liu’s condition:
The director and party secretary of the publicity center within the Health Commission of Hubei first reported that Liu had died around 10:00 p.m. local time on Feb. 17 through Weibo, a popular Twitter-like Chinese social media platform.
In the post, which was subsequently deleted, he described Liu as the first hospital director to have “sacrificed” his life to fight the virus and expressed “profound condolences.”
Confusion arose just hours after the party secretary’s Weibo post after Liu’s wife reportedly told Pear Video, a leading Chinese short video platform, that he was in critical condition and was relying on an ECMO machine (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) to support his breathing. She added that his illness had lingered for over 20 days. Liu was transferred to Wuhan Tongji Hospital on Feb. 14 and has been under intubation since, she said.
The voice in the video was electronically altered. The Epoch Times is unable to independently verify the video’s authenticity. A staff member from the hospital confirmed that “he was being treated,” but did not provide more information. Another hospital employee said they were not aware of the issue beyond the online discussions.
China Daily and several other state run media had also run reports on Liu death, but subsequently deleted their articles and social media posts, in a fashion reminiscent of the death of Wuhan doctor and whistleblower Li Wenliang less than two weeks ago.
Once this “confusion” was resolved, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announced that Liu “passed away at 10:54 Tuesday morning at the age of 51 after all-out efforts to save him failed.”
“From the start of the outbreak, Comrade Liu Zhiming, without regard to his personal safety, led the medical staff of Wuchang Hospital at the front lines of the fight against the epidemic,” the commission said, crediting Liu with making “significant contributions” to Wuhan’s fight against the disease.
Wuchang Hospital is one of seven major facilities designated for the treatment of coronavirus patients in Wuhan. Dr. Liu was a leading neurologist at the hospital.