Coronavirus has killed six health workers and infected 1,700 medical staff in China, Beijing reveals

  • Shortage of masks and protective gear has sparked a crisis for Chinese doctors
  • 1,716 medics have been infected in China, of whom 1,102 caught it in Wuhan
  • Dangers to medics were highlighted when whistleblower doctor died last week 

Coronavirus has killed six health workers in China and infected more than 1,700 since the outbreak began, Beijing said today.

Shortages of masks and protective gear have sparked a crisis for medical staff as they deal with more than 60,000 cases of the deadly virus. 

Zeng Yixin, vice minister of China’s national health commission, said today that 1,102 of the 1,716 infected health workers caught the virus in the city of Wuhan. 

Another 400 were infected elsewhere in Hubei province, the region at the centre of the outbreak which is under drastic quarantine measures. 

Medics wearing protective gear walk past patients wearing masks at a hospital in Wuhan, where more than 1,000 health workers have caught the virus 

Chinese authorities have scrambled to deploy protective gear to Wuhan’s hospitals where doctors and nurses have been overwhelmed by the outbreak. 

Many doctors in Wuhan have had to see patients without proper masks, having to re-use the same equipment when it should be changed regularly. 

One doctor at a community clinic in Wuhan said he and at least 16 other colleagues were showing symptoms similar to the virus, including lung infections and coughing.

The risks to medical staff were highlighted last Friday when Li Wenliang, a doctor who had been reprimanded for trying to raise the alarm about the virus, died of the Covid-19 disease.  

His death unleashed an outpouring of public anger on Chinese social media, with academics in Wuhan writing an open letter demanding reform and free speech.  

A man places flowers at a memorial in Wuhan for Li Wenliang, the doctor who was reprimanded for trying to raise the alarm about the virus and succumbed to it last week 

Doctor Li Wenliang (left and right), 34, who died from the disease last Friday morning after first raising the alarm about the illness

Nearly 64,000 people are now recorded as having been made ill by the virus in China, with the last two days showing a steep rise after a change in diagnostic methods. 

The nationwide toll rose to 1,380 on Friday, although 108 deaths in Hubei were removed from the tally after being double-counted. 

Yesterday Japan became the third place outside the Chinese mainland to report a death, after one each in Hong Kong and the Philippines. 

More than two dozen countries have now reported hundreds of cases among them. 

In addition, there are now more than 200 cases on board the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess in Japan – the largest cluster outside China.  

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