Veteran environmentalist Xu Dapeng has died of a respiratory disease with symptoms similar to the Wuhan coronavirus, 10 days after a similar illness took his wife.
Xu, who founded the environmental NGO Friends of Nature, died of pneumonia in Wuhan's Hankou Hospital, the group said in a statement on Wednesday.
Xu's death came just 10 days after that of his wife, also from a respiratory infection, at Wuhan's No. 6 People's Hospital, where he had sat at her bedside in the last days of her life.
Neither Xu nor his wife had been tested by their respective doctors for the novel coronavirus (nCoV), so their recent contacts hadn't been placed in isolation.
A group member surnamed Zeng confirmed the news to RFA, saying Xu's remains had been cremated almost immediately after his death.
"I learned the news last night ... but I don't have any more detailed information," Zeng said.
A friend of Xu's who gave only his surname Liu said neither Xu nor his wife had been tested for the novel coronavirus (nCoV) that has killed 17 people in Wuhan, and that the couple's daughter hadn't been placed in isolation.
"When she took her father to the hospital yesterday afternoon [Jan. 22], the hospital wouldn't take him," Liu said. "Her father died last night, and she thought that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would help her, but that didn't happen."
"The authorities didn't care about it at all, and the doctors were no longer bothering with her," he said. "It's a huge problem that someone who is suspected to be a carrier isn't being taken care of. She has just been left to deal with it by herself."
"According to my understanding, quite a few teachers went to visit them on Jan. 12, and she's definitely had contact with other people," Liu said. "I tried to call the mayor's hotline on her behalf but I couldn't get through."
Relatives, friends plan funeral
Sources told RFA that Xu's daughter is planning to gather friends and relatives for a funeral for her father on Thursday, and Xu's friends are worried that the event will spread the virus still further, if Xu's daughter is carrying it.
But friends who contacted the Wuhan municipal CDC with their concerns were told that there was nothing that could be done for people whose loved ones weren't on the official list of deaths from the coronavirus.
An official who answered the phone at the Wuhan CDC confirmed that health authorities aren't taking reports of infections or deaths or isolation inquiries from members of the public, only from hospitals.
If hospitals don't report a case as being suspected nCoV, then the relatives of the infected patients are left to their own devices, the official said.
She said individuals can't ask to be tested for nCoV; they have to be referred by hospitals.
"This is not within our jurisdiction," she said. "She needs to be reported to CDC by the hospital ... There is no way for an individual to report [disease]."
Reported by Wong Siu-san and Man Hoi-tsan for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.