06/03/2020, 13.22
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Coronavirus: a fifth doctor dies in Wuhan

Hu Weifeng contracted COVID-19 in January. He was a colleague of Ai Fen and Li Wenliang, who first sounded the alarm over the pandemic. Thousands of doctors have been infected because the government waited too long to declare an emergency. After testing ten million people, the authorities declare Wuhan to be free from the disease.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – A fifth doctor from the Wuhan Central Hospital died yesterday of the coronavirus. Hu Weifeng, a 42-year-old urologist, had contracted COVID-19 four months ago.

Hu, who leaves a wife and two children, had been in a coma for a long while. His death, like that of his colleagues, is seen by many observers, in China and abroad, as evidence of China’s failure to handle the pandemic emergency.

Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, is the city where the pandemic broke out in December. About 50,000 of China’s 84,000 cases have been recorded here, with 3,869 city deaths, out of a total of 4,645 across the country.

In the early stages of the outbreak, until January 23, when Wuhan was placed under a lockdown, Chinese leaders denied the existence of the respiratory infection.

At that time, local healthcare workers became infected because they did not wear the necessary protective gear.

According to data from the World Health Organisation, 3,387 Chinese doctors and nurses tested positive for coronavirus in February: 90 per cent in Hubei.

Hu worked with Li Wenliang, the 34-year-old ophthalmologist detained by police and silenced for publicly speaking about the epidemic. Li died from the infection on 7 February.

In early March, two of Li’s colleagues in ophthalmology, Mei Zhongming and Zhu Heping, died after contracting the disease; Jiang Xueqing, 55, head of thyroid and breast surgery, also died.

Li had shared information obtained from Ai Fen, the doctor who first sounded the alarm on the coronavirus.

In a message posted on WeChat (the Chinese Twitter) on 30 December, Ai asked the authorities to quickly intervene against the disease without results.

For her troubles, Ai’s superiors ordered her to keep quiet so as not to create panic, accusing her of being an informer. Ai disappeared in mid-March; it is feared she might have been arrested for telling her story to Renwu (People) magazine.

Hu’s death and that of other Wuhan doctors stand in contrast to the triumphalist tones used by the local administration, which recently declared victory against the coronavirus.

On 1 June, health authorities completed diagnostic tests on ten million residents, identifying 300 asymptomatic cases.

The systematic testing, which cost 900 million yuan (US7 million), began after a new outbreak was reported in early May.

Official figures did not include any cases after 3 April, apart from those imported from abroad.

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