The director of a hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in China, died Tuesday morning. His death marked the seventh country-wide case involving medical professionals since last week due to the epidemic.

Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital, died at 9:30 p.m. EST at the age of 51 after all efforts to resuscitate him proved futile, CNBC reported, citing the Wuhan municipal health commission. The hospital was exclusively for treating virus-infected patients.

Although Chinese media reportedly broke the news of his death past midnight on Tuesday, the hospital refuted the claims saying they were still giving him life-saving treatment.

More than 1,700 medical workers were confirmed to have been infected with the contagious virus, Zeng Yixin, deputy director of the National Health Commission in China, said in a press conference on Friday.

The COVID-19 death toll in China has soared to 1,868 as of Tuesday. At least 1,886 new confirmed infections were reported, taking the total count to 72,436.

Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old doctor in Wuhan, who was one of the first to warn authorities about the infection, died earlier this month after contracting the virus. The fatalities highlight the health workers’ risky exposure to the disease.

China has dispatched more than 25,000 medical workers from across the country to treat patients in Wuhan since Feb. 14. The city has recently built two new hospitals to accommodate the overwhelming entries of infected cases.

Neighbours are being encouraged to report on each other as the Chinese government seeks to halt the spread of the coronavirus Neighbours are being encouraged to report on each other as the Chinese government seeks to halt the spread of the coronavirus Photo: AFP / NOEL CELIS