A Chinese funeral home director has identified multiple cases of “unidentified pneumonia” among the growing number of corpses his facility is processing, a sign the Chinese Communist Party is not properly labeling Wuhan virus cases and artificially deflating numbers, the Epoch Times reported on Sunday.
The Epoch Times, an anti-communist publication with sources within the country, identified the funeral director only as being from Jining, Shandong province, about 450 miles from the epicenter of the viral outbreak in Wuhan. His testimony, if true, echoes similar reports of Chinese hospitals failing to confirm coronavirus cases in individuals dying of respiratory failure in areas with a high concentration of coronavirus cases. The Epoch Times has relied on the testimony of workers at funeral homes, crematories, and other similar facilities to reveal evidence of overwhelming numbers of bodies the government must now process as a result of the outbreak.
Cases of the novel coronavirus, now causing high numbers of infections in countries like Iran, Italy, and South Korea, are believed to have first began circulating in Wuhan, a regional capital of 11 million people, in December 2019. Chinese officials notified the World Health Organization (WHO) of an unidentified virus causing health issues in the city in early January, but did not alert the public until January 20. Upon China announcing the discovery of a new coronavirus, eyewitnesses in Wuhan began appealing to international media with information of “pneumonia” cases the government refused to confirm as coronavirus or otherwise. Others complained that, despite showing symptoms of coronavirus infection, China’s government-run hospitals would not test for the virus without Communist Party approval.
The Communist Party has fired or otherwise reprimanded a small number of local officials over failures in handling the outbreak, but not similarly held higher-ranking officials responsible. Dictator Xi Jinping has largely avoided the limelight, stepping out only once for a photo opportunity in Beijing and otherwise keeping to high-level meetings with other officials.
Many of the cases of mishandling patients were documented in Hubei; the Jining funeral director suggests nationwide attempts to cover up the outbreak, which would implicate more powerful people than the Wuhan public officials already fired.
“Hospitals have the capacity to write clearly the cause of death, but they didn’t label it [clearly],” the funeral director reportedly told the Epoch Times. “The hospitals wrote the cause of death as unidentified pneumonia. It terrified my staff.”
The director reportedly identified only four or five bodies with the “unidentified pneumonia” label, which would be nearly twice the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the province (which currently stands at six). One mishandled body would likely be enough to contaminate the facility and infect all the staff at the funeral home, however, as health experts have warned that the Chinese coronavirus is extremely contagious and may be able to live in water droplets in the air.
The Epoch Times noted that the director said he attempted to notify local authorities of the mislabeled death certificates but received only assurances that no coronavirus deaths had occurred in Jining. The director did say he had not seen any more bodies labeled with the “unidentified pneumonia” tag after his several calls to the government.
The newspaper reached out to hospital officials that would have handled bodies sent to the funeral director in question. They neither confirmed nor denied that the bodies were people who died of coronavirus, instead stating they either did not have the capacity to test for the virus, or they had the capacity, but were not approved to test anyone without government permission.
The Wuhan coronavirus does cause pneumonia in severe cases, as do many other viruses, including coronaviruses, in sensitive patients. The funeral director’s story echoes an early case of “pneumonia” in Wuhan that attracted attention because the government refused to test the people involved for coronavirus.
Xu Dapeng, the founder of China’s oldest environmental organization Friends of Nature, and his wife died of “pneumonia” in January in their hometown of Wuhan. His wife died ten days before Xu and before the official public announcement on January 20 of the discovery of a new virus. The couple’s daughter and relatives, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA), demanded that the hospital that treated the couple both test the late patients for the new coronavirus and test them, given their proximity to the deceased. The hospital refused, stating that those alive did not have contact with any confirmed coronavirus patients, but refusing to confirm if those who died of pneumonia in their family were carriers.
By February, multiple reports out of cremation facilities and funeral homes suggested that the official tally of coronavirus deaths was impossible. While most of the bodies coming into the Wuhan crematoria at the time were not confirmed coronavirus patients, the volume of remains was far higher than normal; no other explanation existed for the high number of deaths at the time. Public signs of stress at funeral homes corroborated the reports, such as advertising for dozens of extra jobs at Wuhan homes. One Wuhan advertisement sighted by RFA called for “applicants aged 16-50 years old, regardless of gender, with ‘bold and strong’ personalities who have no fear of ghosts.”