Skepticism of China’s official death toll from the coronavirus continues to grow, even among residents of Wuhan where the virus is believed to have originated.
China has officially reported 3,308 deaths from coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, as of Monday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The Chinese government had been reporting near or more than 100 deaths a day for much of February.
On Feb. 24, it reported 71 new deaths and from this past Saturday to Sunday, it reported no new deaths.
Many American media outlets have taken the Chinese government’s death tally at face value.
The United States has passed China and Italy in coronavirus cases, a stark milestone as the US becomes the world's most infected nation https://t.co/3yGZgbBmQD
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) March 26, 2020
But some local Chinese residents dismiss the official counts.
“It can’t be right … because the incinerators have been working round the clock, so how can so few people have died?” a man named Zhang told Radio Free Asia.
Wuhan resident Chen Yaohui said there had “been a lot of funerals in the past few days.”
Yaohui told Radio Free Asia that “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.”
Qing Ming is a traditional grave tending festival which takes place in April.
Meanwhile, funeral homes in Wuhan have been delivering urns with cremated remains every day. One funeral home received shipments of 5,000 urns over a two-day period, according to Chinese media outlet Caixin.
Those stories were later suppressed by the Chinese government, according to National Review.
Conservative commentators, such as Brit Hume, have expressed doubts about China’s official death tallies and chastised American media outlets for their credulity.