Li Wenliang was a Chinese ophthalmologist who worked as a physician at Wuhan Central Hospital. Li warned his colleagues in December 2019 about a possible outbreak of an illness that resembled severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), later acknowledged as COVID-19.
He became a whistleblower when his warnings were later shared publicly. On 3 January 2020, Wuhan police summoned and admonished him for “making false comments on the Internet”.
Li returned to work, later contracted the virus from an infected patient (who had been originally treated for glaucoma) and died from the disease on 7 February 2020, at age 33.
A subsequent Chinese official inquiry exonerated him and the Communist Party of China formally offered a “solemn apology” to his family and revoked its admonishment of him.
On 8 January, Li contracted the coronavirus when he came into contact with an infected patient at his hospital. The patient suffered from acute angle-closure glaucoma and developed a fever the next day.
Li then began to suspect that the patient might have a coronavirus infection. Li developed a fever and cough on 10 January, which soon became severe. Doctor Yu Chengbo, a Zhejiang medical expert sent to Wuhan, told media that although most young patients do not tend to develop severe conditions, the glaucoma patient whom Li saw on 8 January was a storekeeper at Huanan Seafood Market with a high viral load, which could have exacerbated Li’s infection.
On 12 January, Li was admitted to intensive care at Houhu Hospital District, Wuhan Central Hospital, where he was quarantined, treated, and tested for the virus several times until he tested positive for the infection on 30 January. He was diagnosed with the virus infection on 1 February.
When Li began showing symptoms of the coronavirus illness, he booked a hotel room to avoid the possibility of infecting his family, before being hospitalized on 12 January. Despite this precaution, his parents became infected with SARS-CoV-2, but later recovered.
Li and his wife, Fu Xuejie, had one son. His wife was pregnant with their second child at the time of his death.