By Jesus Centeno
Wuhan, China, Apr 1 (efe-epa).- The official coronavirus death toll in the Chinese city of Wuhan is 2,553 but some locals fear fatalities during quarantine were much higher due to the constant activities of crematoria.
At the Hankou Funeral Home in the Huangpi District, in the north of the city, cars adorned with white ribbons constantly go in and out to collect people’s ashes and take them to their loved ones.
There are also flowers placed along the road in tribute to those who died in what Chinese President Xi Jinping has described as the “people’s war” against the outbreak.
Funeral homes have been delivering 500 urns to bereaved families every day this week, putting the number of deceased at a much higher figure than the government data, according to Chinese news site Caixin.
During a visit to one funeral home, several police officers stopped Efe reporters when they tried to gain access and took their information.
“You cannot enter unless you are a victim’s family,” one officer said.
“You must respect the deceased and those who come to collect the ashes, it is Chinese tradition.”
In one day 5,000 urns were delivered, twice as many as the total fatalities reported by the authorities, which could put the death toll at more than 40,000, Caixin reported.
One resident told Efe anonymously on the streets of Wuhan: “There are suspicions that many people died at home without being diagnosed and at the beginning there was no equipment to do tests.
“Many people will have died officially of the flu or another disease.
“But there are stories of citizens who were made to sign certificates of death of relatives without being given further explanation.”
They added that “nobody in Wuhan believes the official figures” and the real number is “only known by them” while pointing at the sky.
Stories have been circulating on social media such as Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, where some users said seven Wuhan funeral homes have delivered more than 3,000 urns a day so that relatives can honor their dead during Ching Ming festival or Tomb-Sweeping Day on 4 April.
Traditionally it is the day millions of people visit the graves of loved ones but this year authorities have asked them to light candles and honor them from their homes to avoid crowds.
“There are people who do things that only God can see. But the authorities are atheists, so I don’t think the Lord is going to punish them,” one Weibo user posted.
Another said the suspicions could be based solely on rumors and “it is better not to comment, because it will be censored”.
“Sometimes you have to read what is published right away, because it runs the risk of disappearing,” they added.
Health authorities in the Hubei province reported on Wednesday a new Covid-19 case in Wuhan, the first imported from another country, the United Kingdom, after more than a week without declaring any new infections.
There have not been any new locally-transmitted cases in Hubei or its capital Wuhan, according to China’s National Health Commission.