China has ended the lockdown in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak was believed to have been sparked, and said that the number of new cases there has dropped off close to zero.
But long lines of people claiming bodies of family members and massive shipments of ash urns have sparked speculation that the country is not being honest about the true number of victims there. As Time Magazine reported, this week was the first time that families were allowed to pick up the cremated ashes of victims at eight local funeral homes. At the same time, pictures showed large shipments of urns being delivered — in numbers that appeared much higher than the stated number of victims in the city.
Time noted that local Chinese media outlets reported shipments of 2,500 urns to one funeral home on both Wednesday and Thursday. That is double the city’s stated death toll of 2,535 people.
“But some in China have been skeptical of the accuracy of the official tally, particularly given Wuhan’s overwhelmed medical system, authorities’ attempts to cover up the outbreak in its initial stages, and multiple revisions to the way official cases are counted,” the report noted. “Residents on social media have demanded disciplinary action against top Wuhan officials.”
It was not clear if all of the urns shipped to Wuhan funeral homes were for coronavirus victims, as the city’s lockdown likely also prevented families from picking up the remains of people who died from other causes during that time. But there are others who support the idea that China is not being honest about the number of victims in the country, and that the true total might be significantly higher.
As Daily Mail reported, medical experts advising British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the Chinese government is believed to be downplaying the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in the country and that the true number of victims could be much higher than what China has reported.
“Mr Johnson has been warned by scientific advisers that China’s officially declared statistics on the number of cases of coronavirus could be ‘downplayed by a factor of 15 to 40 times,’” the report noted.
That would mean anywhere from 1.2 million to 3.2 million people infected with the virus and between 50,000 and 130,000 deaths. The report added that the British government believes that China is seeking to build economic power amid the pandemic with “predatory offers of help” to other countries that have been hit with the outbreak.