Determining how many people really died in the Chinese city where COVID-19 began may help to understand what the toll will be elsewhere. But are authorities telling the truth?
WUHAN — In the Chinese city where the coronavirus outbreak began, the most severe quarantine measures are beginning to ease. But life is hardly returning to normal in the capital city of the province of Hubei. The most painful question for locals is being closely followed by the entire world: How many people died in Wuhan?
While the Chinese government's official number of deaths caused by COVID-19 in the city is 2,531, many have suspected that the toll may be much higher. Since last Thursday, survivors have been allowed to collect the ashes of their loved ones, and Beijing-based Caixin newspaper reports long lines at all eight major funeral homes.
Suspicious of the official number, Chinese-language opposition news outlet The Epoch Times did the math.
Wuhan's eight crematoria have a total of 86 incinerators. The largest among them, the Hankou funeral parlor, was previously reported to be in operation 24 hours a day with the capacity to incinerate 576 corpses per day.
Epoch Times estimated that the total number of corpses burned in Wuhan during the 40-day peak period to be 66,048.
Another funeral parlor has stated it will distribute 500 boxes of ashes per day, hoping to finish the distribution in 12 days, in time for Tomb-Sweeping Day, the equivalent of the Christian All-Saints Day, on April 4th. This means that a single crematorium will incinerate 6,000 corpses. Again, the official city-wide death count is 2,531.
As deaths begin to pile up in other countries, having the most accurate information on the human toll of the virus is crucial to knowing what policies and treatments worked elsewhere.
For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus pandemic from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus global brief in your inbox, sign up here.