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Virus claims life of hospital director in hard-hit Wuhan

His death comes as authorities are cautiously cheering a reduction in the number of new daily cases and deaths.

A hospital director who helped lead the fight against China's new virus has become one of its victims.

Liu Zhiming had mobilized all the resources of his hospital in Wuhan city, at the center of the outbreak, as thousands of patients arrived each day. 

“From the start of the outbreak, Comrade Liu Zhiming, without regard to his personal safety, led the medical staff of Wuchang Hospital at the front lines of the fight against the epidemic,” the Wuhan health commission said in a statement, according to the New York Times. The commission added that Dr. Liu “made significant contributions to our city’s fight to prevent and control the novel coronavirus.”

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His death comes as authorities are cautiously cheering a reduction in the number of new daily cases and deaths, along with the results of a study showing most people who contract the virus experience only mild symptoms. 

Liu is at least the seventh health worker to die of the disease among the more than 1,700 who have become sick. Li Wenliang, a doctor who was silenced for warning his medical school classmates about the virus initially, died from the virus almost two weeks before 

A total of 72,436 cases have been reported in mainland China as of Tuesday, although a spike in recent cases was due to a broader definition in the hardest-hit region based on doctors' diagnoses before laboratory tests were completed.

Monday's report from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention gives the World Health Organization a "clearer picture of the outbreak, how it’s developing and where it’s headed,” WHO's director-general said at a news conference.

"It’s too early to tell if this reported decline will continue. Every scenario is still on the table," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The new disease, called COVID-19, first emerged in December in Wuhan, the capital of central China's Hubei province, and has spread to more than two dozen other countries.