A Chinese doctor who was punished after raising the alarm about China’s new coronavirus died from the pathogen on Friday, sparking an outpouring of grief and anger over a worsening crisis that has now killed more than 630 people.
At least 31,000 people have now been infected by a virus that ophthalmologist Li Wenliang and colleagues had first brought to light in late December.
The disease has since spread across China, prompting the government to lock down cities of tens of millions of people, while global panic has risen as more than 240 cases have emerged in two dozen countries.
A quarantined cruise ship in Japan now has 61 confirmed cases.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump, whose countries have tussled over trade and human rights, spoke on the phone about the health emergency on Friday.
Xi urged “the US side to respond reasonably to the novel coronavirus outbreak”, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Trump expressed his “confidence” in China’s ability to tackle the epidemic, the White House said.
Beijing has been angered by bans on arrivals from China instituted by the United States and other countries, accusing Washington of spreading “panic”.
Li, 34, died early Friday, Wuhan Central Hospital said in a post on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform, an announcement that triggered grief on social media — over a doctor who was hailed a hero — and anger over the government’s handling of the crisis.
“He is a hero who warned others with his life,” a fellow Wuhan doctor wrote on Weibo after reports of his death emerged.
“Those fat officials who live on public money, may you die from a snowstorm,” wrote one angry Weibo user in a comment that has since been censored.