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Chinese media question official coronavirus death tally for Wuhan

Mortuaries in Wuhan prepare more urns than number of reported virus deaths

A railway station in Hubei Province on March 25 

A railway station in Hubei Province on March 25  (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Chinese media have begun questioning the official coronavirus death tally in the city of Wuhan as a local mortuary prepared double the number of urns for cremated victims, reports said Friday (March 27).

According to data from China’s central government, the capital of Hubei Province registered 50,006 coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, including 2,535 deaths in the two months leading up to March 26, CNA reported.

Yet recently, a local mortuary prepared 5,000 urns in just two days for the cremated remains of virus fatalities, according to Chinese media. On March 23, the government allowed the public to visit mortuaries to pick up the remains of their relatives, resulting in a line 200-meters long springing up at the Hankou Mortuary in Wuhan, reports said.

Similar scenes emerged at several other mortuaries and cemeteries. Reports mentioned a driver trucking 2,500 urns, while a room at the mortuary contained seven stacks of 500 urns each.

Other reports said that in the period leading up to next week’s Tomb Sweeping Holiday, the fact that urns are being distributed at a rate of 500 a day at each of the city's eight mortuaries could mean that 40,000 people died, instead of the official number of 2,535.

A Voice of America report even quoted a local resident as saying that the government was paying families 3,000 yuan (US$423) as hush money if they buried their relatives before the holiday.