The 51-year-old director of a hospital in Wuhan, China, has died after being infected with the virus that his hospital staff is working so hard to contain and treat. Liu Zhiming’s death was reported, then retracted, and then reported again over the course of several hours on Monday, leading media reports that were nothing short of surreal.
As Gizmodo reports, Zhiming’s death was declared by multiple state-run media outlets on Monday, but it wasn’t long before conflicting reports stating he was still alive began to circulate. Reports of his death began to disappear, and additional reports that the director was still in treatment popped up briefly before the Wuhan Health Commission (Chinese) put the matter to rest early on Tuesday, confirming Zhiming’s death.
This isn’t the first time that death reports related to the coronavirus outbreak have been clouded in controversy. Earlier this month, Li Wenliang, a doctor who is credited with being one of the first to blow the whistle on the outbreak long before it was being widely reported, died after being infected with the coronavirus. Reports surrounding Li’s death were confusing, with some Chinese media outlets reporting his death while others were disputing it. Eventually, the truth that Li had indeed died became the consensus.
This case serves to further highlight the often confusing flow of information out of China regarding the virus, the number of people who are infected, and the death toll. Many have criticized the Chinese government and accused them of hiding the true scope of the outbreak, and the fact that the country’s state-run media can’t seem to make up its mind about important news stories such as this only leads to further doubt.