The Chinese government insists that the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan is 2,535. But last week, 5,000 urns were delivered to a single Wuhan crematorium in just two days.
The crematorium is one of seven in Wuhan.
China has declared victory over the outbreak and on Friday closed its borders to the rest of the world over fears of importing infections. But skeptics say reports of zero new infections are too good to be true and point out that, unlike the rest of the world, China does not report positive test results if the person is asymptomatic.
Now, as restrictions on residents’ movements are eased in Wuhan, thousands of people are making the grim journey to funeral homes across the city to pick up their loved ones’ remains.
But residents doing so have reported huge queues and a six-hour wait to collect remains.
The true extent of the coronavirus epidemic in Wuhan may never be known, but in recent days, the full scale of the horror has begun to emerge.
While the authorities continue to insist the death toll from the outbreak in Wuhan is just 2,535, news reports and social media posts over the weekend revealed that seven crematoriums in Wuhan have been handing out over 3,500 urns per day since the restrictions were eased.
The crematoriums have told families they hope to have completed the distribution of urns by April 5, when the traditional grave-tending festival of Qing Ming takes place. If the numbers of urns handed out so far remains consistent, that will mean the remains of over 40,000 people will be distributed in less than two weeks.
Chinese publication Caixin published photos of thousands of urns stacked up inside crematoriums in the city and reported that one funeral home alone took possession of 5,000 urns last Thursday and Friday.
Crematoriums in the city were typically conducting around 220 cremations per day before the coronavirus outbreak. But reports during the epidemic’s peak in February claimed that they were running around the clock.
With 84 furnaces in total between the eight crematoriums, that could mean that up to 1,560 people could have been cremated each day, assuming that one cremation takes one hour — a figure that would once again put the official death toll in doubt.
“It can't be right… the incinerators have been working round the clock, so how can so few people have died?" a Wuhan resident surnamed Zhang told Radio Free Asia.
Cover: People wear a mask in Beijing on March 30, 2020, amid an outbreak of the new coronavirus. (The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images)