China lifted a two-month lockdown amid coronavirus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, residents said they were growing increasingly skeptical that the figure of some 2,500 deaths in the city to date was accurate.
Seven large funeral homes in Wuhan have started handing out the cremated remains (urns) of around 500 people to their families every day, suggesting that far more people died than ever made the official statistics.
“It can’t be right, because the incinerators have been working round the clock, so how can so few people have died? They started distributing ashes and starting interment ceremonies on Monday,” a Wuhan resident surnamed Zhang told on Friday.
News website Caixin.com reported that 5,000 urns had been delivered by a supplier to the Hankou Funeral Home in one day alone — double the official number of deaths.
Some social media posts have estimated that all seven funeral homes in Wuhan are handing out 3,500 urns every day in total.
Funeral homes have informed families that they will try to complete cremations before the traditional grave-tending festival of Qing Ming on April 5, which would indicate a 12-day process beginning on March 23.
Another popular estimate is based on the cremation capacity of the funeral homes, which run a total of 84 furnaces with a capacity over 24 hours of 1,560 urns city-wide, assuming that one cremation takes one hour.
This calculation results in an estimated 46,800 deaths.
A resident of Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, said most people there now believe that more than 40,000 people died in the city before and during the lockdown.
“Maybe the authorities are gradually releasing the real figures, intentionally or unintentionally, so that people will gradually come to accept the reality,” the resident, who gave only his surname Mao, said.
A source close to the provincial civil affairs bureau said many people had died at home, without being diagnosed with, or treated for, COVID-19.
The source said Wuhan saw 28,000 cremations in the space of a single month, suggesting that the online estimates over a two-and-a-half-month period weren’t excessive.