China Is Testing Dead People for Coronavirus


A funeral home in southeastern China’s Shenzhen city recently confirmed that it requires negative Chinese coronavirus test results for corpses before it will agree to process the bodies, the Chinese state-controlled news website Sixth Tone reported on Thursday.

“The government-backed Shenzhen Funeral Home said it requires a nucleic acid test result for people who have died in areas under virus-protection measures before it proceeds with the last rites,” Sixth Tone reported on May 26 citing its review of a recent screenshot from Shenzhen’s online funeral service platform.

Staff from Shenzhen’s state-run funeral home confirmed the testing policy to China’s Sohu News outlet on May 25 and to Sixth Tone on May 26, saying they had enforced the requirement “since early this year.” The funeral parlor claimed that the policy helped its workers to follow “necessary protocols in case a person who died of other causes was found to be infected [with the Chinese coronavirus].”

If it is not possible to obtain a negative Chinese coronavirus test result for a deceased person, the Shenzhen mortuary will accept a negative test result from one of the deceased person’s relatives.

An unnamed staff member at the Shenzhen funeral home told Sixth Tone on Thursday that “such a requirement is mandatory only when there are local outbreaks [of the Chinese coronavirus]. Currently, only family members involved in on-site funeral procedures should produce a negative COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] test result taken within the past 48 hours.”

Sixth Tone asked the Shenzen mortuary on May 26 to provide official government documents supporting its requirement of negative Chinese coronavirus test results. The state-run funeral parlor, reportedly the city’s only such facility, said it was “unable to locate” the requested documents at the time.

A screenshot of the Shenzhen funeral home testing policy circulated on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform on May 26, garnering 35 million-plus views and 3,000 comments by that afternoon.

“Online, while some users said the funeral parlor’s requirement was reasonable in curbing potential transmission chains, others found it ethically and emotionally unacceptable. Many criticized it for showing little respect to the dead,” Sixth Tone observed.

Shenzhen health officials have documented sporadic local flare-ups of the Chinese coronavirus since the start of the year. The city, which directly borders Hong Kong, was locked down from March 14 to March 21 to contain one such outbreak of the disease. The week-long movement restrictions applied to all 17.5 million of Shenzhen’s residents.

“As part of the central government’s ‘normalized’ testing plan, Shenzhen has made negative [Chinese coronavirus] results from the past 72 hours mandatory to access public transport and crowded spaces since early April,” Sixth Tone reported on May 26.


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