Global report: Wuhan doctor who worked with whistleblower dies

Alison Rourke and agencies
Photograph: South Korean Defense Ministry Handout/EPA

A Chinese doctor who worked with the whistleblower Li Wenliang in Wuhan died of the virus last week, state media reported on Tuesday, becoming China’s first Covid-19 fatality in weeks.

Hu Weifeng, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, died on Friday after being treated for Covid-19 and relatd issues for more than four months, state broadcaster CCTV said.

He is the sixth doctor from Wuhan Central Hospital to have died from the virus, which emerged in the central Chinese city last year.

Wuhan Central Hospital has yet to give a formal statement on Hu’s death. In early February it said some 68 staff members had contracted coronavirus. Hu’s condition became a national concern after Chinese media showed images of him with his skin turned black due to liver damage.

Fellow doctor Yi Fan showed similar symptoms, but recovered and has since been discharged from hospital.

The death of their colleague Li Wenliang in February triggered a national outpouring of grief and rage against the government as he documented his final days on social media.

Authorities in Wuhan separately said that city-wide testing of 9.9 million people that began in mid-May found no new cases of Covid-19, and 300 asymptomatic cases. China does not count asymptomatic cases – meaning people who are infected with the virus but do not exhibit symptoms of the disease – as confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, South Korea is testing a new QR code tracing system to track visitors at entertainment venues, restaurants and churches as it battles to contain persistent clusters of infection

A church-linked Covid-19 cluster of 40 cases in the Seoul metropolitan area has been the third major flare-up in recent weeks, following more than 250 infections stemming from nightclubs and bars in the capital and at least 112 cases at a logistics centre in Bucheon, west of Seoul.

Starting on 10 June visitors to nightclubs, bars, karaoke clubs, daytime discos, indoor gyms that hold group exercises and indoor standing concert halls will be required to use any of a number of commercially available apps to generate a one-time personalised QR code that can be scanned at the door. 

The decision to trial the codes came after authorities struggled to trace people in the nightclub outbreak because much of the information on handwritten visitor logs was found to be false or incomplete. 

Related: WHO warns overuse of antibiotics for Covid-19 will cause more deaths

While infections from the recent clusters have eased, there are fears of a spike when 1.8 million school students return to class on Wednesday.

In Pakistan the prime minister has defended his decision to lift almost all lockdown measures because of economic losses, as deaths and infections continued to rise. In a televised address Khan said his government could not afford to continue giving cash handouts to the poor on such a large scale.

“Our conditions don’t allow that we keep feeding money to them, how long we can give them money?” he said, adding that around 130 million to 150 million people were adversely affected by the shutdowns.

The country would open to tourism but cinemas, theatres and schools would remain closed. Khan urged people to act responsibly but said more infections and deaths were inevitable.

“This virus will spread more. I have to say it with regret that there will be more deaths,” Khan warned. “If people do take care they can live with the virus.”

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said restrictions may be eased again sooner than planned as the country was “ahead of schedule”. Cabinet will decide next Monday whether to move to level-1 restrictions – the most lenient – two weeks ahead of when the government had planned to make that decision. New Zealand has had no Covid-19 cases for 11 straight days.

It is believed level-1 restrictions will involve little other than the continued closure of borders. This did not apply for the international crew of the film Avatar 2, who were given special permission arrive and begin filming. The director, James Cameron, and 55 members of his crew arrived on a privately chartered plane over the weekend, with many people angered that they were granted an exception.

There are fears the increased use of antibiotics to combat the pandemic will strengthen bacterial resistance and ultimately lead to more deaths during the crisis and beyond, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday a “worrying number” of bacterial infections were becoming increasingly resistant to the medicines traditionally used to treat them.

In other coronavirus developments:

  • The UK’s death toll from Covid-19 is on the brink of exceeding 50,000, according to the latest official figures, confirming Britain’s status as one of the world’s worst hit countries by the pandemic.

  • The White House coronavirus taskforce member Dr Anthony Fauci has said he has not spoken to Donald Trump for two weeks. It comes as fears mount over the spread of the virus at demonstrations over the death of George Floyd.

  • The World Health Organization has praised the United States’ “immense” and “generous” contribution to global health in a push to salvage relations after Trump said he was severing ties. The WHO also said it should have enough information in 24 hours to decide whether to continue its suspension of trials of the antimalarial drug hyrdroxychloroquine against Covid-19.

  • Deaths in Mexico passed 10,000 as the WHO warned that Central and South America had become “intense zones for transmission of this virus” and had not reached their peak in cases.

  • Brazil registered 11,598 additional cases of coronavirus and 623 new deaths on Monday, taking its confirmed cases to 526,447 and deaths to 29,937.

Agence France-Presse and Reuters contributed to this report