A Chinese doctor, among the first to raise the alert about China’s new coronavirus, himself died from the pathogen on Friday, emphasizing the depth of a worsening crisis that has killed at least 630 people.
Global panic also spread, with thousands trapped on quarantined cruise ships.
Ophthalmologist Li Wenliang died at 2:58 am, Wuhan Central Hospital said in a post on its verified account on Chinese social media platform Weibo.
The 34-year-old sent out a message about the new coronavirus to colleagues on December 30, but was later among eight whistleblowers summoned by police for “rumour-mongering.”
He later contracted the disease while treating a patient and has been hailed as a hero by Chinese internet users.
Li was among more than 28,000 people who have been infected in China, where authorities are struggling to contain the outbreak, despite ordering millions indoors in a growing number of cities.
Two dozen countries have confirmed cases of the respiratory disease, which emerged from a market selling exotic animals in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
Thousands of holidaymakers on cruise ships in Hong Kong and Japan face an agonizing wait to find out if more among them have been infected.