Wuhan whistleblower doctor remembered a year after death from COVID-19

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Residents in the Chinese city of Wuhan haven’t forgotten the whistleblower doctor who warned the world about COVID-19 before dying of it himself a year ago.

Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old Wuhan ophthalmologist at a local hospital, became a poignant symbol of the early days of the outbreak, before it was officially recognized. When he tried to sound the alarm, he was reprimanded by Chinese officials for “spreading rumors.”

“He was the first to tell us about the virus,” Li Pan, 24, of Wuhan, who owns an online store, told Reuters Saturday.

“He must have considered the impact would be huge, but he still raised the alarm. That was really brave,” Li said.

The doctor’s death on Feb. 7, 2020, caused both enormous public mourning and a rare outcry of anger online. Zhong Nanshan, a renowned epidemiologist, cried over Li in an interview, calling him a “hero of China.”

But when President Xi Jinping honored the “heroes” of the “people’s war” against the virus in September, he didn’t say a word about Li.

Life in Wuhan has mostly resumed its pre-COVID rhythm but locals said Li is still revered there.

Ji Penghui, a 34 year-old designer, credited Li with waking him up to the dangers of the virus early on. He said rushed to stock up on masks before the officials said anything about it to the public.

“The public strongly acknowledges him, and personally, I think he should receive more official honors, rather than being treated as what he did is already in the past,” Ji said.

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