China is gradually coming back to life as the government begins to lift movement restrictions and lockdowns. According to official government statistics, the coronavirus outbreak has been contained in China, with all but a handful of cases being imported from overseas.
However, skepticism is growing in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic first began. Authorities in Wuhan are unlikely to disclose the overall number of deaths despite renewed concerns about underreporting of fatalities from the coronavirus pandemic.
Officially, over 2,500 people have died from coronavirus in Wuhan, out of a total of 50,000 infections. Residents and several health experts believe that the real number may be many times more.
An official at Wuhan’s Civil Affairs Bureau said on Monday that the final numbers would only be released in the second week of June as scheduled, with no plans to bring forward the date of the announcement.
The comment came after several reports that funeral homes in Wuhan have ordered thousands more urns to store the ashes of the dead than the official death tally of coronavirus patients in the city.
In a report by Caixin magazine, a truck driver reported delivering about 5,000 urns on Wednesday and Thursday to the funeral parlour in Hankou district – one of eight such facilities in the city. Another photograph published with the report reportedly showed 3,500 urns stacked on the floor of the funeral home.
According to the city bureau, Wuhan recorded 56,007 cremations during the last quarter of 2019, nearly 3 per cent more than the same period in 2018 and about 4 per cent above that in the same period of 2017. The population of Wuhan only grew by 1 per cent from 2018 to 2019, fuelling speculation that Wuhan residents may have been dying from coronavirus as early as November 2019.