1,716 medical staff infected by coronavirus in China, six dead

1,716 medical staff infected by coronavirus in China, six dead

BEIJING: Six doctors have died from the new coronavirus in China and quite 1,700 are infected, health officials said Friday, underscoring the risks doctors and nurses have taken thanks to shortages of protective gear.

The figure comes every week after public anger erupted over the death of a whistleblowing doctor who had been reprimanded and silenced by police after raising the alarm about the virus in December.

Zeng Yixin, vice minister at the National Health Commission, said at a press conference that 1,716 doctors are infected within the country as of Tuesday.

The majority, 1,102, are diagnosed with the COVID-19 illness in Wuhan, the city center at the epicentre of the crisis, Zeng said.

Another 400 were infected in other places in Hubei province.

Chinese authorities have scrambled to deploy protective equipment to Wuhan's hospitals, where doctors and nurses are overwhelmed by an ever-growing number of patients.

Many doctors in Wuhan have had to ascertain patients without proper masks or protective body suits, resorting to reusing an equivalent equipment once they should be changed regularly.

One doctor at a community clinic in Wuhan told AFP he and a minimum of 16 other colleagues were showing symptoms almost like the new virus, including lung infections and coughing.

The risks medical staff face was highlighted on February 7 when Li Wenliang, the whistleblowing doctor, succumbed to the disease in Wuhan.

His death unleashed an outpouring of grief and anger on Chinese social media, with 10 academics in Wuhan circulating an letter calling for political reform and freedom of speech.