The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative.
The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week.
As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in.
Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500 urns on both Wednesday and Thursday last week, Chinese media outlet Caixin reported.
Another picture published by Caixin showed 3,500 urns stacked on the ground inside. It was unclear how many of the urns had been filled.
People who answered the telephone at six of the eight funeral homes in Wuhan said that they either did not have data on how many urns were waiting to be collected, or were not authorized to disclose the numbers. Calls were not answered at the other two.
Some families said that they had been forced to wait for several hours to pick up the ashes.
The photographs circulated as deaths from the coronavirus spiked in cities across the West, including Milan, Madrid and New York, where hospitals were erecting tents to handle the overflow as global infections soared.
Government data showed that 2,548 people in Wuhan had died of the coronavirus.
The announcement that a lockdown in place since January would be lifted came after China said its tally of new cases had hit zero.
It has stepped up diplomatic outreach to other nations hard hit by the coronavirus, sending some medical supplies, but some in China have been skeptical of the accuracy of the official data, particularly given Wuhan’s overwhelmed medical system, authorities’ attempts to cover up the outbreak in its initial stages and multiple revisions to the way cases were counted.
Wuhan residents on social media have demanded disciplinary action against top officials.
Many people who died had COVID-19 symptoms, but were not tested and excluded from the tally of official cases, Caixin said.
There were also patients who died of other diseases due to a lack of proper treatment when hospitals were overwhelmed dealing with those who had the coronavirus, it said.
There were 13,856 cremations in the city in the fourth quarter of last year, according to Bloomberg calculations based on data from the Wuhan Civil Affairs Bureau.
That was 2,419 lower than in the fourth quarter of 2018.
The families of the deceased might not even be able to say a proper goodbye to their loved ones just yet.
The Wuhan government on Thursday last week issued a statement prohibiting individuals in the city from tomb-sweeping activities until April 30, meaning they would not be able to observe Tomb Sweeping Day this week.
Other Chinese provinces, including Guangxi and Zhejiang, have also announced similar restrictions.
Two residents of Wuhan who had lost family members to the coronavirus said online that they were informed they had to be accompanied by their employers or officials from neighborhood committees when picking up the urns, possibly as a measure against public gatherings.
“I was told by the district government to wait until further notice on when I can pick up my father’s ashes,” Wuhan resident “Xue Zai Shou Zhong” (Snow in Hand) wrote. “There is a staggered arrangement for urn collecting.”
Another netizen, “Adagier,” said that she lost her husband to the coronavirus and had since been contacted by police warning her not to be too emotional — and to stop posting online.
“I have only one demand,” she wrote. “I want to give my husband a proper burial as soon as possible.”
STANDING WITH BEIJING: Carrie Lam did not explain how Hong Kong’s freedoms would be maintained, saying: ‘the best thing is to see the legislation in front of us’ Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) yesterday said that Beijing’s proposed national security laws would not trample on the territory’s rights and freedoms, and called on citizens to wait to see the details of the legislation. Lam added her voice to an unprecedented barrage of statements by Beijing and local officials, and former Hong Kong leaders defending the legislation and seeking to reassure residents, investors and diplomats about the territory’s freedoms. “There is no need for us to worry,” Lam told a regular weekly news conference. Like others supporting the legislation, she did not explain how Hong Kong’s freedoms would be upheld. “In
STEP TOO FAR? The mandatory COVID-19 app has unprecedented access to users’ location data and forces Android users to give access to their picture and video galleries Privacy concerns over Qatar’s COVID-19 contact tracing app, a tool that is mandatory on pain of prison, have prompted a rare backlash and forced officials to offer reassurance and concessions. Like other governments around the world, Qatar has turned to mobile phones to trace people’s movements and track who they come into contact with, allowing officials to monitor infections and alert people at risk of infection. The apps use Bluetooth to ping nearby devices, which can be contacted subsequently if a user they have been near develops symptoms or tests positive for the virus, but the resultant unprecedented access to users’ location
‘CULTURE ERADICATION’: A US official said that Beijing is trying to stamp out the Uighur culture because it is not what the Chinese Communist Party deems ‘Chinese’ The US Congress on Wednesday authorized sanctions against Chinese officials over the mass incarceration of Muslim Uighurs. The US House of Representatives voted with just one dissent in favor of the Uighur Human Rights Act. Rights groups say that at least 1 million Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region have been incarcerated in what Beijing calls “re-education” camps. “If America does not speak out against human rights [violations] in China because of some commercial interest, then we lose all moral authority to speak out on human rights violations any place in the world,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. House Committee
UNITED STATES SpaceX launch delayed SpaceX’s launch to the International Space Station — the first crewed mission to blast off from US soil in almost a decade — was scrubbed on Wednesday due to fears of a lightning strike. With NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley strapped into the Crew Dragon capsule, the launch pad platform retracted and rocket fueling under way, SpaceX made the call to abort. “We had just simply too much electricity in the atmosphere,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said. UNITED STATES Chinese ministry checked Twitter has applied a fact check tag to at least two posts made in March by