Number of cremated coronavirus victims in Wuhan raise questions about China’s statistics

Hospitals in Wuhan / China Daily via Reuters


WUHAN – Is the Chinese government lying about its coronavirus numbers?

A Bloomberg report says long lines and stacks of ash urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan are raising questions about the true number of Covid-19 numbers in the epicentre of the outbreak.

This month, China has reported a decrease in the number of new infections, to and extent that the last of a dozen makeshift hospitals in Wuhan officially closed on Tuesday, March 10 “in a sign that authorities’ efforts to curb the virus are working”.

They also report that people have resumed work and businesses are opening.

But as families of those who succumbed to the virus were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight local funeral homes, photos circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in.

This also comes after China expelled foreign journalists, particularly from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post “as necessary to defend Beijing against what it perceived as an ideological campaign by the US to impose its values on China”.

On Thursday, March 26, China also suspended the entry into the country of all foreigners, including those holding visas and residence permits.

“Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500 urns on Wednesday and Thursday, according to Chinese media outlet Caixin. Another picture published by Caixin showed 3,500 urns stacked on the ground inside. It’s unclear how many of the urns had been filled,” Bloomberg reported on Friday.

China says 2,535 people in Wuhan have died of the virus. Further, the announcement that a lockdown in place since January would be lifted came after China said its tally of new cases had hit zero and stepped up diplomatic outreach to other countries hard hit by the virus, sending some of them medical supplies.

Those who answered Bloomberg’s call at six of the eight funeral homes in Wuhan said they either did not have data on how many urns were waiting to be collected, or were not authorized to disclose the numbers.

Some people in China have been skeptical of the accuracy of the official tally, particularly given Wuhan’s overwhelmed medical system, authorities’ attempts to cover up the outbreak in its initial stages, and multiple revisions to the way official cases are counted.

Residents on social media have demanded disciplinary action against top Wuhan officials.

Reports indicate there were also patients who died of other diseases due to lack of treatment when hospitals were overwhelmed in dealing with coronavirus patients.

The US now has the highest number of known coronavirus cases in the world with more than 82,000, according to CNN’s tally of cases reported by health officials.

The US cases piled up Thursday, surpassing China and Italy.

China has accused the US, and President Donald Trump in particular, of racism for trying to label the virus Chinese or Wuhan, the city where it first appeared. The Trump administration has accused China of disinformation and slander.

On the other hand, Trump and political allies frequently describe the crisis as Chinese-made.

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