China exonerates doctor reprimanded for warning of virus

BEIJING — China has taken the highly unusual move of exonerating a doctor who was reprimanded for warning about the coronavirus outbreak and later died of the disease.

The official China News Service late Tuesday said police in the epicenter city of Wuhan had revoked its admonishment of Dr. Li Wenliang that had included a threat of arrest and issued a “solemn apology" to his family.

It said two police officers had been issued “disciplinary punishments" for the original handling of the matter, without giving further details.

In death, Li became the face of simmering anger at the ruling Communist Party's controls over information and complaints that officials lie about or hide disease outbreaks, industrial accidents, natural disasters and financial frauds, while punishing whistleblowers and independent journalists.

The 33-year-old ophthalmologist died in early February at Wuhan Central Hospital, where he worked and likely contracted the virus while treating patients in the early days of the outbreak.

After seeing thousands of new cases daily at the peak of the city's outbreak a month ago, Wuhan on Friday had its second consecutive day with no new confirmed or suspected cases.

The health ministry said all of the 39 new cases recorded nationwide Friday were brought from overseas, showing that rigid travel restrictions and social distancing requirements appear to have had their desired effect.

China has loosened some travel restrictions in Hubei, the province surrounding Wuhan, although its provincial border remains closed and Wuhan itself remains under lockdown. Officials say they will only lift the quarantine after Wuhan goes 14 consecutive days with no new cases.

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