Large crowds of visitors to Wuhan cemeteries raise questions about COVID’s actual death toll

Published (HKT): 2021.04.06 06:45

Mainland Chinese bloggers have described recent scenes of graveyards crammed with crowds of visitors in Wuhan, the epicenter of last year’s COVID-19 outbreak, in a subtle reminder that the official death toll may be considerably underestimated.

In the lead-up to Sunday’s Ching Ming Festival, a day to commemorate deceased loved ones and ancestors, around 320,000 residents visited cemeteries and graveyards in Wuhan to pay tribute to their lost family members, according to one blogger.

The blogger, who cited the number from a recent report in Hubei-based newspaper Chutian Metropolis Daily, added that crowds and vehicles bound for burial grounds filled Wuhan’s streets on Sunday.

That account was echoed by some who claimed to be Wuhan residents. One commented that severe traffic jams were seen on highways leading to graveyards as early as 6 a.m. on Sunday. The scenes were reminiscent of February 11, the eve of the Lunar New Year, when large numbers of Wuhan residents bought chrysanthemums and took them to the graves, the blogger said.

While it is unclear how many of the visits were dedicated to people who died of COVID, mainland internet users  linked the sad sense of mourning in Wuhan to the many casualties of last year’s outbreak.

Last April, Wuhan health officials announced that 3,869 people had died from the coronavirus since it was first reported in the city in early January. Critics believe that death toll was a gross understatement.

In the early outbreaks last year, videos and reports were widely circulated online showing overcrowded hospitals, a shortage of cremation facilities and desperate living conditions during the country’s first lockdown.

A mainland blogger noted that although Wuhan has been ‘unlocked’ for a year, the number of people who died there in the pandemic remains unclear.

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