Police officers were seen guarding a crematorium in Beijing amid reports of overflowing funeral homes due to a resurgence in COVID infections: Bloomberg

  • Police officers and security guards were seen guarding a crematorium in Beijing, Bloomberg reported.

  • The facility's staff told the Financial Times they cremated at least 30 COVID-19 victims last Wednesday.

  • However, China reported no deaths in Beijing on Friday.

Police officers and guards were seen guarding a crematorium in Beijing this week amid reports that suggest China might be covering up its real COVID-19 death toll.

Bloomberg reported on Monday that guards were seen stationed outside the Dongjiao Funeral Parlor on Monday. Reporters on the scene were made to move to the back of the facility's parking lot, Bloomberg reported. Around one dozen minivans were also spotted entering the facility and appeared to be dropping off bodies, per Bloomberg.

Bloomberg's reports on the heavy police presence at the facility came after the Dongjiao Funeral Parlor became the subject of two separate reports — a Financial Times report on Friday, and a Reuters story on Saturday.

The Financial Times spoke to a staff member at the Dongjiao Funeral Parlor last week, who said they had cremated several dozen people who died from COVID-19.

"We cremated 150 bodies on Wednesday, many times more than a typical day last winter," an anonymous employee from the funeral parlor told the Financial Times, adding that some 30 or 40 of the deceased had died of COVID-19.

"We are doing it as quickly as possible and prioritizing Covid deaths," the employee added. "We are cremating them the same day they are brought in."

Reuters separately reported Saturday that it saw around 30 hearses parked in the Dongjiao Funeral Parlor's driveway. One of them contained a corpse that workers dressed in hazmat suits came out of the facility to collect, Reuters reported.

The news agency also reported seeing around 20 body bags containing corpses in a funeral parlor several meters from the crematorium. But it could not immediately establish if these contained the bodies of COVID-19 victims.

Reuters also reported that other funeral homes in the Chinese capital are getting overwhelmed by the surging demand for cremations. The news outlet spoke to staff at around 12 funeral homes, many of whom reported seeing many of their workers testing positive for COVID-19, along with an increased backlog of bodies to cremate.

Reports stand in stark contrast to China's zero-COVID-19 death tally

Insider could not independently confirm the Financial Times' and Reuters' reporting on the increased demand for funeral services in Beijing.

But these reports stand in stark contrast to the death tolls reported by the Chinese government — on Monday, the country's health ministry reported no deaths. And on Friday, the day of the Financial Times report, China also did not declare any deaths.

In response to questions about the reports, Liu Pengyu, the Chinese embassy's spokesperson in Washington, D.C., told Insider: "China's National Health Commission (NHC) releases Covid-19 related data every day and the data are accurate."

Beijing and other cities in China have seen a marked surge in COVID-19 cases. This is after the country made 10 changes to its zero-COVID policy on December 7, which were essentially a soft rollback of restrictions — including harsh lockdowns — that sparked protests nationwide.

Last week, China also stopped tracking asymptomatic COVID-19 infections. Chongqing, a Chinese megacity, is also encouraging those with mild COVID-19 symptoms to keep working, in what seems to be a pivot to living with the virus, reported the South China Morning Post on Monday.

However, a new report from the US-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation suggests that the relaxation of the zero-COVID policy, coupled with the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations in January, may lead to a surge in positive infections. Should this happen, more than a million people could die, the report indicated.

Editor's note: December 23, 2022: This story has been updated to reflect the Chinese embassy's comment.

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