As a mysterious new virus enveloped central China’s Wuhan early this year, Liu Zhiming mobilized all the resources of his hospital in the city’s Wuchang district to deal with the thousands of sick people arriving daily, threatening to overwhelm the local health care system, The Associated Press reported.
That dedication appears to have cost him his life, with Wuhan’s health bureau announcing Tuesday that he became infected and died despite “all-out” attempts to save him.
Liu is at least the seventh health worker to die of the COVID-19 disease among the more than 1,700 doctors and nurses who have become sick. His death comes as authorities are cautiously cheering a reduction in the number of new daily cases and deaths, along with the results of a study showing most people who contracted the virus experienced only mild symptoms.
China on Tuesday reported 1,886 new cases and 98 more deaths. That raised the number of deaths in mainland China to 1,868 and the total number of confirmed cases to 72,436.
The outbreak has caused massive disruptions and China may postpone its biggest political meeting of the year to avoid having people travel to Beijing while the virus is still spreading. One of the automotive industry’s biggest events, China’s biannual auto show, is also being postponed, and many sports and entertainment events have been delayed or canceled.
Despite strict rules on use of masks and safety suits, medical workers have been prominent among the victims, particularly in the early stage of the outbreak.
In announcing Liu’s death, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said he had taken part in the battle against the virus from the start and had made “important contributions in the work of fighting and controlling” the virus.
During that process, “unfortunately he became infected and passed away at 10:54 Tuesday morning at the age of 51 after all-out efforts to save him failed,” the commission said.
The Hubei native had graduated from Wuhan University’s School of Medicine in 1991 and went on to a career as a chief physician, neurosurgeon and administrator.
Earlier this month, public outrage was stirred by the death from the virus of Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang, who had been threatened by police after releasing word of an outbreak of an unusual respiratory illness in December before it had spread widely and the city was placed under quarantine.