The death toll from the novel coronavirus has reached 1,873, as almost half of China’s 1.3 billion-strong population remain subject to varying forms of travel restrictions and other quarantine measures.
On Tuesday, Liu Zhiming, director of the Wuchang hospital in Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak, himself died of the virus, according to a statement released by local government authorities.
Liu was a neurosurgeon and the most senior health worker known to have died as a result of the coronavirus epidemic. His death could renew criticism that the government has not done enough to protect frontline medical workers, many of whom are overworked and overstretched.
Also on Tuesday, state media reported that doctors and nurses who die while trying to contain the outbreak will officially be designated as “martyrs.”
All but five deaths from the virus have occurred inside mainland China, where an additional 98 fatal cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, were reported Tuesday morning. The number of confirmed cases in China increased by 1,886, bringing the global total to over 73,325.
The vast majority of those cases have been in China, but concern has been growing in the past week over much smaller but growing outbreaks in Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong.
According to China’s National Health Commission, since the outbreak began in December, more than 12,500 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital.
Outside of Hubei, the province of which Wuhan is capital, the number of new cases has dropped for 14 consecutive days. Despite this apparent good news, stringent and often draconian measures are being ramped up in much of the country. This comes as authorities make an effort to return to something like normality in many major cities and commercial hubs, with the long break forced by the outbreak taking its toll on the country’s economy.
On Monday, a committee headed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said that a “greater outbreak of the epidemic has been avoided through strengthened prevention and control measures,” adding that “a positive trend has emerged nationwide in curbing the epidemic.”