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The National Health Commission (NHC) said in its daily report that 2,004 people had died of the disease known as COVID-19. (Reuters photo)

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has condoled the death of a Chinese hospital chief who died of the deadly coronavirus in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.

Dr Liu Zhiming, president of the Wuhan Wuchang Hospital in Hubei province died of the novel coronavirus pneumonia on Tuesday despite medical efforts to revive him, the state-run CCTV reported, the latest fatality among medical workers as they rush to save tens of thousands of patients at the epicenter of the outbreak.

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“My deepest condolences to the family of Dr Liu Zhiming, his colleagues and patients for this enormous loss,” the WHO chief tweeted on Tuesday. Liu “touched and saved numerous lives in the COVID-19 outbreak,” Tedros said, adding that “my thoughts are with them and all the front-line health workers fighting the virus.”

An eulogy issued by the local health commission said Liu, 51, head of the Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan, had made important contributions to the city’s epidemic prevention and control while leading all medical personnel of Wuchang Hospital on the frontline to fight against the epidemic.

A total of 1,716 Chinese medical workers have been infected with the novel coronavirus by February 11, and six of them have died. The death toll from the coronavirus epidemic in China crossed the 2,000-mark on Wednesday with the death of 136 more people, while the overall confirmed cases climbed to 74,185, Chinese authorities said on Wednesday.

The National Health Commission (NHC) said in its daily report that 2,004 people had died of the disease known as COVID-19. The NHC said 1,749 new cases of novel coronavirus infection have been confirmed.
Of the new deaths, 132 were reported from the worst-hit Hubei Province.

The WHO which has sent a team of experts to China early this week has issued guidance on the rights, roles and responsibilities of health workers as its latest move in its response to the current COVID-19 outbreak, highlighting the rights and responsibilities of health workers, including specific measures needed to protect occupational safety and health.

Noting that health workers are at the front line of any outbreak response, the WHO guidance said that the hazards include pathogen exposure, long working hours, psychological distress, fatigue, occupational burnout, stigma, and physical and psychological violence.

According to the guidance, employers in health facilities should assume overall responsibility to ensure that all necessary preventive and protective measures are taken to minimise occupational safety and health risks, and to familiarise personnel with technical updates on COVID-19 and share infection prevention and control information with patients and the public. They should also provide a blame-free environment for workers to report on incidents, such as exposures to blood or bodily fluids from the respiratory system or to cases of violence, and to adopt measures for immediate follow-up, including support to victims.

The guidance suggests that health workers swiftly follow established public health reporting procedures of suspect and confirmed cases and provide or reinforce accurate infection prevention and control and public health information, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.