While the Chinese Communist Party claims they've suffered just 3,300 coronavirus deaths out of more than 60,000 who have died around the world as of this writing, evidence exists that the actual death toll across China is far higher - and could be more than 40,000.
And as long lines form at Wuhan funeral homes over the last two weeks, family members - some waiting up to six hours, have been collecting their loved ones in the hopes of giving them a proper funeral. In particular, mourning families want to be able to perform a 'grave sweeping' ritual that has been around for over two millennia - where families gather on the 15th day after the spring equinox to remove weeds and dirt from their ancestors' graves.
Unfortunately, due to the backlog in urns, lost bodies, and Chinese authorities banning, or severely limiting tomb-sweeping rituals due to the large crowds which gather at cemetaries, mourners in Wuhan won't be able to pay their respects until at least May, according to the Washington Post - which suggests that beyond health safety reasons, Beijing wants to limit the number of people standing around, criticizing the government response to the pandemic.
“No one in the family got to say goodbye to Grandpa or see his face one last time,” said Gao Yingwei, an IT worker in Wuhan whose grandfather, Gao Shixu, apparently succumbed to the novel coronavirus on Feb. 7. The 76-year-old died at home; funeral workers in hazmat suits came to collect his body, telling the family it would be cremated immediately.
“To this day, we have no idea how his body was handled, where his ashes are or when we will be able to pick them up,” Gao said. “I don’t even know which funeral parlor those guys were from.” -Washington Post
As we've noted over the last several weeks, the numbers in China aren't adding up - as crematoriums have been processing thousands of bodies per day, according to several reports.
The Hankou Funeral Home, for example, told Caixin that it has been operating 19-hour days; enlisting male staff to carry bodies while reporting they've received 5,000 urns in two days.
Using photos posted online, social media sleuths have estimated that Wuhan funeral homes have returned 3,500 urns a day since March 23. That would imply a death toll in Wuhan of about 42,000 — or 16 times the official number. Another widely shared calculation from Radio Free Asia, based on Wuhan’s 84 furnaces running nonstop and each cremation taking an hour, put the death toll at 46,800. -Washington Post
"It can’t be right . . . because the incinerators have been working round the clock, so how can so few people have died?" said one Wuhan resident identified only as Zhang, in a statement to RFA.
Also notable are the uncounted deaths - those who likely died of coronavirus but weren't tested for the disease, such as 49-year-old Liu Cheng, who died February 12 of a "severe infection in both lungs." He was not counted in the official coronavirus statistics, and was immediately cremated before his family could see him, according to the report.
Wuhan cemeteries have reported that they will sweep tombs during the memorial period, while some private funeral companies have offered to tend to graves for a fee while the families watch on live stream. And they have nobody to blame but the CCP for their early inaction and destruction of samples in what may have been able to be contained if they had acted sooner.