A much loved Chinese bodybuilder who was still going strong at the age of 72 has been killed by the coronavirus which he caught after refusing to wear a surgical mask.
Qiu Jun, from the viral outbreak's epicentre Wuhan in Central China's Hubei Province, survived just four days in hospital before dying of fatal pneumonia-like symptoms on 6th February, his family has confirmed.
The pensioner, who only began exercising when he retired in 2003 at the age of 56, was well known as a bodybuilding champion, claiming numerous prizes in the senior category.
He was often seen working out in Zhongshan Park, where he would often spend three hours doing press-ups or pull-ups, before breaking for lunch and continuing in the afternoon.
Son-in-law Mr Hai said Mr Qiu visited him and his wife prior to Chinese New Year at the height of the coronavirus outbreak.
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However, despite repeated reminders, Mr Qiu did not stop exercising and continued to go to his gym until the entire city of Wuhan was put on lockdown on 23rd January.
When a chronic fever concerned Mr Hai and his wife, they tried to send him to Wuhan Union Hospital, but they went home again because the lack of beds meant he needed to queue behind more than 300 people.
On January 28, Mr Qiu was finally tested at the facility, and a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis arrived by text message on February 2.
Mr Qiu was placed in isolation at Wuhan Red Cross Hospital the next day, and was declared dead four days later.
Mr Hai told local media: "On the second and third days after the Chinese New Year, his fever continued. He then lost his appetite, and I finally began to accept the possibility.
"He had his blood tested, then he was transferred to Wuhan Union Hospital, but there was such a long queue there.
"When they finally confirmed his diagnosis, he was sent to Wuhan Red Cross Hospital. He died a few days after that.
"The elderly tend to be stubborn. When news of the coronavirus first broke, the three of us went out for a meal, and we brought up the topic quite seriously.
"I asked him to go out less and to wear a face mask when he does.
"He stayed quiet for a long while, then said: 'What will be will be.' Then he added: 'No one else is wearing a mask – how would it look if I wore one?'
"I was so angry I wanted to smash my bowl, but I couldn't do anything. You can ground a child, but how do you control an old man?
"I did remind him, but also only had fragments of information at the time. Even though he was very strong, he was also already 72 years old."
Mr Qiu wanted to continue bodybuilding until he was 80, and had planned to take part in competitions in Nanjing and Beijing this summer, reports said.
Mr Hai, who has been quarantined together with his wife due to close contact with Mr Qiu, said the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak has "traumatised" his family.
They plan to leave the city as soon as the lockdown is lifted.
No funeral service will be held for Mr Qiu until after the outbreak is over, Mr Hai has told relatives.
The champion bodybuilder is expected to be cremated.
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