Authorities in Beijing say COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan in China’s Hubei Province, has claimed the lives of 3,300 people and infected more than 81,000. Of those, 3,182 deaths were reported in Hubei Province. But Wuhan residents claim 500 urns a day are returned to grieving families from seven different funeral firms in the stricken city – meaning the ashes of 3,500 victims handed out every 24 hours.
The undertakers in Hankou, Wuchang and Hanyang have promised to distribute all the ashes before April 5, the date of China’s Qing Ming festival where people tend the graves of their ancestors.
Local media said the Hankou funeral homes received two shipments of 5,000 urns in just two
One Wuhan resident said: “It can’t be right because the incinerators have been working round the clock, so how can so few people have died?”
Another resident said: “Maybe the authorities are gradually releasing the real figures, intentionally or unintentionally, so that people will gradually come to accept the reality.”
A source close to authorities in Hubei province said many residents had died in their homes without being officially diagnosed.
The source said the estimated 42,000 figure was not exaggerated as in one month, 28,000 cremations took place.
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The grim news came amid fears a growing number of imported coronavirus cases in China risked fanning a second wave of infections when domestic transmissions had “basically been stopped”.
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Officials have reported 693 cases entering from overseas.
Most imported cases have involved Chinese returning home from abroad with nearly a quarter from arrivals into Beijing.
China was widely accused of a delayed response when suspected cases first emerged in December, with a young doctor reprimanded for “spreading rumours” when he tried to raise the alarm.
But the world’s most populous country has since won praise from the World Health Organisation for its efforts to lock down affected areas and isolate patients.
Most of the country, including large parts of Hubei province, are this week starting to emerge from lockdown with shops and busienesses being allowed to reopen.