The death toll from China’s coronavirus outbreak may be higher than the official figures because bodies are being hurriedly cremated, it has been claimed.
Crematorium workers in the city of Wuhan claim that bodies are being sent from hospitals without being added to the official record.
China today raised the death toll to 213, but there are fears that the figures are ‘way too low’ – sparking claims of a cover-up.
William Yang, an East Asia correspondent for German news site Deutsche Welle, told The Sun there were ‘reasons to remain sceptical about what China has been sharing with the world’.
Medics wearing protective clothing carry a patient to a hospital in Wuhan, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak
‘While they have been more transparent about certain things related to the virus, they continue to be sketchy and unreliable in other aspects,’ Yang said.
Hong Kong-based news outlet Initium spoke to workers on the mainland who said bodies were being sent for cremation without being properly identified, he said.
‘This means there are patients who died from the virus, but were not added to the official record,’ Yang suggested.
China has taken extreme steps to stop the spread of the virus, including a quarantine of more than 50million people in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province.
But the number of new deaths and cases continues to swell.
The death toll was hiked on Friday to 213 after 43 new deaths, all but one in Hubei. Most deaths have been elderly people.
China’s National Health Commission also said Friday that 1,982 new cases had been confirmed, bringing the total to 9,692.
That exceeds the 8,096 cases from SARS, a similar outbreak that spread to more than two dozen countries in 2002-03 and killed 774 people.
Another 102,000 people are under medical observation in China with possible coronavirus symptoms.
Officials in protective suits gather close to the scene where an elderly man wearing a face mask was found dead in Wuhan on Thursday
Doctors look at a CT scan of a patient at a hospital in Wuhan, which is now under quarantine
Wuhan is the centre of the outbreak of the new coronavirus, which is believed to have jumped from wild animals at a city market into humans.
China has suspended schools nationwide and extended the Lunar New Year holiday in an effort to limit people travelling.
Thousands of foreigners have been trapped in Wuhan since it was sealed off last week, and countries have been scrambling to arrange evacuation flights.
France on Friday airlifted around 200 of its citizens from the city. They will be placed under two-week quarantine back home.
A total of 18 South Korean evacuees who arrived from the Chinese city of Wuhan have been hospitalised after showing symptoms, Seoul’s health authorities said today.
Workers in China unload a shipment of protective suits from a cargo plane at Wuhan Tianhe International Airport yesterday
The US State Department yesterday raised it warning alert to the highest level, telling Americans ‘do not travel’ to China and urged those already there to leave.
The American warning goes further than the advice issued by by Britain, Germany, Japan and other countries to avoid non-essential travel.
The WHO, which was criticised for initially downplaying the virus threat, changed tack after crisis talks in Geneva and declared an emergency yesterday.
‘Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,’ said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
‘We must all act together now to limit further spread… We can only stop it together.’
Many major airlines have suspended or reduced flights to China, while Mongolia and Russia have shut their borders.
Italy and Israel on Thursday barred all flight connections with China.