Wuhan residents are increasingly skeptical of the Chinese Communist Party’s reported coronavirus death count of approximately 2,500 deaths in the city to date, with most people believing the actual number is at least 40,000.
“Maybe the authorities are gradually releasing the real figures, intentionally or unintentionally, so that people will gradually come to accept the reality,” a Wuhan resident, who gave only his surname Mao, told Radio Free Asia.
A city source added that, based on the aggregation of funeral and cremation numbers, authorities likely know the real number and are keeping it under wraps.
“Every funeral home reports data on cremations directly to the authorities twice daily,” the source said. “This means that each funeral home only knows how many cremations it has conducted, but not the situation at the other funeral homes.”
The city began lifting its lockdown on Saturday after two months of mandatory shutdown, with a complete lift of restrictions set for April 8. Funeral homes in Wuhan have been handing out the cremated remains to families every day, but rumors began circulating after one funeral home received two shipments of 5,000 urns over the course of two days, according to photos reported by Chinese media outlet Caixin, which were later censored.
Reports of the funeral’s crematoriums working nonstop also raised questions.
“It can’t be right … because the incinerators have been working round the clock, so how can so few people have died?” a man surnamed Zhang told RFA.
Wuhan residents said the government was paying families 3,000 yuan for “funeral allowances” in exchange for silence.
“There have been a lot of funerals in the past few days, and the authorities are handing out 3,000 yuan in hush money to families who get their loved ones’ remains laid to rest ahead of Qing Ming,” Wuhan resident Chen Yaohui said, in a reference to the traditional grave tending festival on April 5.
“During the epidemic, they transferred cremation workers from around China to Wuhan keep cremate bodies around the clock,” he added.
China has used state propaganda in an attempt to avoid blame for the spreading of COVID-19, despite reports showing how the government suppressed initial reports of human-to-human transmission and gagged Wuhan labs that discovered the novel virus resembled the deadly SARS virus of 2002-2003.