Senior Wuhan doctor dies from coronavirus as authorities start to 'round up' patients

In city of 11m, officials threaten with punishment those who delay reporting symptoms

One of Wuhan’s most senior doctors has died after contracting the coronavirus as authorities began a sweeping campaign inside the city to seek out patients infected with the virus.

Liu Zhiming had taken part in the battle against the virus from the start and had made important contributions in fighting and controlling Covid-19, the Wuhan municipal health commission said. 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.

Confirmation also emerged of the death last Thursday of Xu Depu, the former director of the Ezhou city Chinese medicine hospital in Hubei province. A nurse at the hospital confirmed his death on Tuesday, according to reports in state media.

Chinese state media reported new house-to-house checks in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people at the centre of the outbreak, that aimed to seek out and “round up” all infected patients. State media said anyone suspected of having the virus would face mandatory testing and anyone who had close contact with virus patients would be put under quarantine.

According to Chutian Daily, a Wuhan newspaper, 10 quarantine centres similar to the makeshift Fangcang hospital will be set up across eight districts in the city, providing an additional 11,400 beds for people showing mild symptoms of infection. Buildings in factories, industrial estates and transport centres were being converted into makeshift centres for housing patients.

The reports said all communities and villages would be placed under around-the-clock “closed-off” management, in effect putting them under lockdowns. From Tuesday, anyone who buys cough medicine or treatments to bring down a fever in chemists or online will need to use their ID card, the state-funded site the Paper reported.

The citywide inspection campaign indicates an escalation of the situation in Wuhan, where former officials have been blamed for a cover-up that led to the rapid spread of the virus. Health officials have reported nearly 50,000 confirmed cases in Hubei alone.

The draconian measures come after two of the city’s top leaders were sacked last week. Wuhan’s new Communist party chief, Wang Zhonglin, issued the new decree, according to the Global Times, an English-language state newspaper.

Officials would carry out the inspection with the help of big data and artificial intelligence, it said, without providing further details.

An order on Monday from the Wuhan city legislature on “winning the coronavirus war” warned that people who refused mandatory measures such as reporting cases of fever and cough to their local residential committees or going into quarantine if they were sick would be subject to “coercive measures”.

The order also said those who delayed reporting cases or “fabricate and spread false information on the epidemic” would be punished.

Footage circulated on the website of the Changjiang Daily, a paper run by Wuhan’s Communist party, showing officers in protective clothing knocking on people’s doors and checking their temperatures.

“We’re racing with time. This is a heated war of annihilation, not a relaxed protracted war,” a narrator says. “It’s a painful process but the fight must be fought imminently. The temporary lockdown is for the sake of our reunion in the near future. Wuhan will be bustling again soon.”

Wuhan residents complained about the draconian lockdown on social media. “We’re not allowed to go out at all, we’ve lost our most basic human rights. The guards are like prison guards, abusing the little bit of power they have. We’re guaranteed personal freedoms under the constitution!” said a user of the the Chinese microblogging site Weibo.

Another social media user also said it felt like being “in prison” as she was barred from leaving her house, even to go out for a stroll in the neighbourhood.

The death of the whistleblowing doctor Li Wenliang, who alerted colleagues over a mysterious disease that turned out to be the coronavirus, this month unleashed an outpouring of anger and grief across the nation. Wuhan police detained and censured him last month for “spreading false rumours”.

As in the case of Li’s death, there was initial confusion in China about Liu’s condition. On Monday night, the Communist party propaganda department of the Hubei health commission wrote in a social media post that Liu had died. It then said in a subsequent post that Liu was alive.

Although the number of people contracting coronavirus outside Hubei province has dropped for 13 consecutive days, the situation inside Hubei continues to be serious, reported Global Times.

Restrictions were tightened further in Hubei on Sunday with vehicles banned from the roads – excluding those delivering essential services – and companies told to stay shut until further notice. The notice also included locking down all residential communities in urban and rural areas, and closing non-essential public places.

Meanwhile Russia announced it would temporarily suspend entry of Chinese citizens to its territory starting from Thursday, authorities there said.

Additional reporting by Lillian Yang

Guardian reporter in Hong Kong

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Coronavirus: Wuhan doctor speaks out against authorities
Ai Fen says in interview, which censors are trying to erase, how superiors reprimanded her for warning about outbreak

Lily Kuo in Hong Kong

11, Mar, 2020 @8:50 AM

Article image
Wuhan residents brave queues as coronavirus mass testing begins
Locals report confusion and lengthy waits as officials aim to test 11m residents in 10 days

Helen Davidson

15, May, 2020 @8:50 AM

Article image
Test and trace: lessons from Hong Kong on avoiding a coronavirus lockdown
Semi-autonomous city followed WHO advice and moved swiftly to stem contagion without rigid curbs on movement

Sarah Boseley Health editor

17, Apr, 2020 @10:30 PM

Article image
Coronavirus: death toll reaches 41 in China with first cases in Europe
Public transport suspended in at least 13 cities in China as death toll rises and France identifies cases

Rebecca Ratcliffe, Lillian Yang in Beijing andDenis Campbell

24, Jan, 2020 @7:30 PM

Article image
Britons evacuated from Wuhan regret coming home
Some who left Chinese city as coronavirus hit wish they were still there now that lockdown has lifted

Jessica Murray

10, Apr, 2020 @4:24 PM

Article image
China's handling of coronavirus is a diplomatic challenge for WHO
Beijing’s draconian measures to contain outbreak have delayed global transmission

Sarah Boseley Health editor

18, Feb, 2020 @7:36 PM

Article image
Doctor who blew whistle over coronavirus has died, hospital says
Early reports of death of Li Wenliang were retracted, only for doctor to succumb to disease later in day

Emma Graham-Harrison, Tom Phillips and Justin McCurry in Tokyo

06, Feb, 2020 @8:36 PM

Article image
British family's fraught escape from Wuhan and coronavirus
Siddle family now in quarantine after last-minute permission to leave and four-hour dash across Hubei province

Jessica Murray

06, Feb, 2020 @6:13 AM

Article image
Newborn among 28,000 coronavirus cases as death toll passes 550
News comes as Hong Kong says it will quarantine all people coming from mainland China

Justin McCurry in Tokyo and Rebecca Ratcliffe

05, Feb, 2020 @11:50 PM

Article image
British couple on Diamond Princess question positive coronavirus test
David and Sally Abel taken off ship, as UK says it is trying to organise evacuation of British passengers

Justin McCurry in Tokyo and Rebecca Ratcliffe in Bangkok

18, Feb, 2020 @10:01 AM