A Hong Kong-based news outlet called Initium Media alleged on Wednesday that the Chinese Communist government is secretly cremating victims of the Wuhan coronavirus to keep the death toll down.
The official figure stood at 213 fatalities on Friday, with 9,692 infections, but skeptics have long suspected Beijing of fudging both numbers.
Deutsche Welle correspondent William Yang spotted the Initium Media report, which was posted two days ago, when the official count of deaths from the virus was 113:
… without properly identifying these patients, which means there are patients who died from the virus but not adding to the official record. That shows the current death toll of 133 that we are seeing is way too low.
— William Yang (@WilliamYang120) January 29, 2020
“So there are reasons to remain skeptical about what [the Chinese government] has been sharing with the world, because while they have been more transparent about certain things related to the virus, they continue to be sketchy and unreliable in other aspects,” Yang concluded.
Yahoo News Australia noted that a Chinese nurse posted a video last week in which she claimed the real number of infections is ten times as high as the figure reported by the Chinese government. After asserting that over 90,000 people have actually been diagnosed with the Wuhan virus so far, she pleaded for people around the world to send masks and other protective equipment to China to slow the spread of the disease.
Yahoo quoted Dr. Michael Ryan of the World Health Organization (WHO) estimating on Thursday that the death rate from the Wuhan virus is roughly two percent. This would be worse than most flu epidemics and much worse than the early estimates for Wuhan, but not nearly as deadly as SARS, the 2003 epidemic in China that killed about ten percent of its victims.
Fox News observed on Friday that the number of reported Wuhan virus cases has “increased more than tenfold in a week,” with 99 percent of them appearing in the quarantined Hubei province. All of the deaths reported so far have occurred in China. Friday’s report of 43 deaths was the highest number reported in a single day.
The integrity of the Hubei quarantine is a matter of great global concern as the infection figures rise, possibly much faster than the Chinese government is willing to admit. Reuters reported on Friday that foot traffic has been spotted crossing bridges over the Yangtze River, which serves as one of Hubei’s borders. The bridges were closed to vehicular traffic, but local police explained that pedestrians are allowed to cross under “special circumstances.”
Yahoo Australia’s report on the nurse who claimed there have been 90,000 infections also quoted another Chinese woman who claimed on social media that she was able to conceal an illness from airport screeners by rapidly consuming a large amount of medication shortly before she flew from Wuhan to France.
“Finally I can have a good meal, I feel like I’ve been starving for two days,” the woman said on social media as she posted photos of herself dining at a gourmet French restaurant. The Chinese embassy in France reportedly hunted her down and tested her for the Wuhan virus. The tests came back negative.
As of Friday, 62 countries had announced immigration or travel restrictions on China due to the virus. Some of these restrictions target Hubei province, while others apply to the entire country. Most airlines around the world are now refusing to fly to Hubei, and a growing number are refusing to fly to China, making it necessary for the Chinese government to charter planes to return travelers stranded in other countries.