Delivery of 5,000 urns undermines China’s coronavirus official death toll: Report

Delivery of 5,000 urns undermines China’s coronavirus official death toll: Report

China’s official death toll for coronavirus has come under further scrutiny after reports said that 5,000 urns had been distributed to a single funeral home in Wuhan alone, suggesting the real number of deaths in the city could be far higher than the official toll of 2,535.

Wuhan has been under lockdown since the coronavirus pandemic first emerged in the city in January. However, Chinese officials announced this week that the lockdown would be partially lifted after it reported no new cases of coronavirus in the city, in line with its broader claims that coronavirus has peaked in China and is now largely under control.

But this narrative is increasingly being questioned by observers who have challenged the way China reports its numbers and suggested officials have downplayed the number of deaths in the country.

The latest accusation is based on reports that urns used to contain people’s ashes after cremation had been delivered and distributed in far larger numbers than expected from the official death toll in Wuhan.

According to a report by Chinese-language media outlet Caixin, which was picked up by Bloomberg and the Shanghaiist, the Hankou Mortuary has distributed urns at a rate of 500 per day and will continue to do so until April 4.

“Wuhan has seven other mortuaries. If they are all sticking to the same schedule, this adds up to more than 40,000 urns being distributed in the city over the next 10 days,” concluded the Shangaiist.

Photographs from the Hankou Mortuary also showed mass numbers of urns being stockpiled and delivered. According to Caixin, at least 5,000 urns were distributed to Hankou over two days. One photograph in the Caixin report shows the arrival of 2,500 urns, while another reportedly shows a stockpile of 3,500.

An image reportedly showing 3,500 urns at Hankou Mortuary. (Caixin)An image reportedly showing 3,500 urns at Hankou Mortuary. (Caixin)

While it is unclear how many of these urns have been distributed, Caixin reported lines of up to five hours to collect an urn from Hankou. It is also unclear whether other mortuaries have been distributing urns, but the numbers from Hankou alone suggest that the mortuary has far more urns than would be needed to accommodate for the officially reported 2,535 dead.

However, a lot remains unknown about the deliveries, which may not be directly linked to deaths from coronavirus and could be for people who have died in the past or as a precaution for future deaths.

The reports which calculated that 40,000 urns could have been distributed are also based on the assumption that all eight of Wuhan’s mortuaries are distributing urns at an equal rate or even at all, which may not be the case.

Bloomberg reported that six of the eight people who answered the phone at Wuhan’s other mortuaries were unable to comment, while the other two did not answer.

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