Doctor Li Wenliang, who first drew attention to the dangers of a new type of coronavirus, died Thursday from the illness in a hospital in Wuhan, China. 

According to local sources, Li sent a message to colleagues in his medical school alumni group in December last year warning that seven people had been quarantined at Wuhan General Hospital with a respiratory illness similar to the SARS coronavirus.

But police in Wuhan forced him to sign a letter admitting that he was “making false comments.”

On January 12, Li was hospitalized after contracting the virus from one of his patients and was confirmed to have the coronavirus on February 1.

The World Health Organization (WHO) offered its condolences on Twitter.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Li Wenliang. We all need to celebrate the work that he did on the coronavirus,” it said.

The death toll in China from the novel coronavirus outbreak has climbed to 564, the country’s National Health Commission (NHC) said Thursday.

In a statement, the commission said 28,018 confirmed cases have been reported so far and 73 people have died in the last 24 hours.

The number of people under medical observation has risen to 186,354, while the number of those thought to be infected is now 24,702.

The virus is said to have been transmitted to humans from animals, particularly bats. It has raised alarm worldwide.

Besides China, the virus has spread to more than 20 countries, including the US, the UK, Singapore, France, Russia, Spain and India.

Many countries have evacuated their citizens from the city of Wuhan -- the epicenter of the virus -- and other affected areas of China, placing them in isolated medical care.

The WHO has declared the outbreak an international emergency.