Beijing: A doctor from China's Hubei province, the epicentre of the fast-spreading coronavirus, died on Saturday reportedly due to the deadly disease, becoming the first medical professional to have fallen victim to it, according to a media report.
The death toll due to the virus rose to 41 in China with 1,287 confirmed cases, China's National Health Commission announced on Saturday.
Of the 1,287 confirmed cases, the condition of the 237 is stated to be critical.
Liang Wudong, 62, a surgeon at Xinhua Hospital in the province, died at 7am (local time) on Saturday, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported, quoting the local Chinese media. Liang was suspected to have been infected with the virus last week, before he was transferred to Wuhan's Jinyintan Hospital for treatment, the report said.
Chinese official media on Friday reported that the country also began deploying military medics to step up the treatment facilities in Wuhan and 12 other cities in Hubei province which are under total lock-down with suspension of all public transport.
China's central military command has ordered medical staff to help civilian doctors and nurses, state-run CCTV reported.
It said 40 medical officers from the city's military hospital had already started work in the intensive care unit of Wuhan Pulmonary Hospital.
The decision to deploy military doctors also comes against the backdrop of growing apprehension among the medical staff over the threat posed by the virus to their lives as during the SARS or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome crisis in 2003, medical staff suffered major casualties.
Meanwhile, the Wuhan local government is rushing to build a 1,000-bedded hospital in the city's outskirts to treat coronavirus patients.
Dozens of excavators were feverishly working at the site where the hospital will be built on the 25,000 sq metres just about in 10 days' time. It will be put into use by February 3, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Workers are being paid 1,200 yuan (USD173) per day, three times their usual wage, to accelerate the construction.
The hospital will be modelled on the one built in Beijing for the treatment and control of SARS or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, that spread rapidly on the Chinese mainland in 2003, killing over 800 people. During that time, Beijing had built the Xiaotangshan Hospital, a temporary medical centre in the northern suburb of the city.
As the unknown virus is wreaking havoc, Chinese and American researchers are working together to develop a vaccine against the deadly new strain of coronavirus, the South China Morning Post reported.
The collaboration is taking place amid a growing international debate about whether the virus came from snakes or bats.
At present, there is no cure for the virus which has pneumonia-like symptoms and is contagious among humans.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday stopped short of declaring the virus a global public health emergency, despite China's climbing death toll.
The virus has spread to Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and the United States as of Thursday.