A Crematorium Refuses to Handle COVID-19 Corpses

March 12, 2020 Updated: March 12, 2020

Date of Interview: Feb. 29, 2020
Location: Jining City, Shandong Province

The Chinese-language Epoch Times obtained an internal document from the Municipal Government of Jining, Shandong Province, which revealed that the director of a local crematorium wrote to the municipal government, complaining that when COVID-19 patients died, local hospitals did not specify whether they are COVID-19 deaths, posing a huge risk to crematorium employees who handle these corpses.

The Shandong Health Commission announced on Feb. 20, 2020, that seven prison guards and 200 inmates in the city’s Rencheng Prison were found to have been infected with the COVID-19 virus. In fact, an insider revealed to the Epoch Times that the first group of prison guards infected were confirmed on Feb. 10.

Jining is not a big city and is far away from Hubei Province, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the number of COVID-19 infections in Jining is among the highest for a city of its size due to the outbreak within Rencheng prison.

The Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times conducted an undercover interview with the director of a crematorium in Jining on Feb. 29, 2020.

The following is a transcript of the undercover interview:

Journalist: Hello, director. I would like to follow up with you regarding the issue you complained about twice. Has the issue been resolved? Are there any other problems?

Director: May I know whom I am speaking to?

Journalist: Our team is responsible for following up with issues brought up in the community.

Director: Did you mean the specification on death certificates for crematoriums?

Journalist: Right. Didn’t you mention that you don’t have enough protective suits?

Director: We ordered more and they just arrived.

Journalist: You reported to the local authorities to complain about the death certificates from the No. 1 Hospital and the No. 2 Hospital, right?

Director: Correct. I reported this issue.

Journalist: Has it been resolved?

Director: We later decided that we will not handle any deaths that resulted from any form of pneumonia. We’ll let other crematoriums handle those. These deceased people actually do not belong to our jurisdiction, but previously the hospitals nonetheless chose to send them here.

Journalist: The No. 1 Hospital is capable of performing the diagnosis test. Local CDC also helps with the diagnosis. They recently identified ten people who were tested positive.

Director: If they have confirmed it, they should specify on the death certificate that the person died from COVID-19. If they don’t, if they claim that the cause of death is uncertain, our employees are scared, they will panic.

Journalist: That indeed is a problem.

Director: They should have made it clear for our staff, but they didn’t. They shouldn’t have caused such panic among our staff who don’t have much medical knowledge [to be able to identify the death cause]. If they send over a COVID-19 corpse but don’t tell us explicitly, everyone will be scared. Therefore we decided not to handle any patients who died from any form of pneumonia.

Journalist: So now are the corpses sent to other crematoriums?

Director: I don’t know the details. I don’t know where these hospitals are sending the corpses to now.

The note they put on the certificate says, “pneumonia/uncertain.” They’re all like that. The word “uncertain” makes our staff panic. Why do they claim it’s pneumonia and at the same time tell us they are uncertain about it. Actually I learned about it from my employees. I haven’t seen such a death certificate myself.

Journalist: How many corpses have you handled that were labeled “uncertain”?

Director: You’ll have to ask our on-site manager to find out the details. He knows it. I’ll give you his number.

Director: I think we have handled four or five such cases. You can confirm with the on-site manager, and find out how the hospitals describe the death cause, “pneumonia/uncertain,” on the certificates. It was the on-site manager who told me this. I then called the Mayor’s hotline, asking the municipal government to discuss this issue with the two hospitals.

Journalist: You know, the official figures do not reflect the real situation. So the government is probably involved in this practice. However, those of you working at crematoriums have the right to know the real death causes, otherwise you will run into problems, as there will be new infections among your staff members. 

Director: Exactly. So we no longer accept them. Starting from Feb. 21, we no longer accept those patients who were sent here from No. 1, No. 2 and Women’s Hospital and marked as “pneumonia” patients.

Journalist: But you already handled several. When you handled those cases, did your staff wear protective suits? Has anyone been placed under quarantine and medical observation? 

Director: The on-site manager did not tell me about this. We are now equipped with masks and protective suits, the white protective suits, 20 sets.

Journalist: When you first brought up this issue, did you have protective suits?

Director: No, there were no protective suits. The government provided some later. We didn’t have any on Feb 4 and Feb. 5. 

Journalist: Are any staff members experiencing symptoms? Is anyone feeling unwell? 

Director: So far none. We are very careful now. If we need to handle such patients, we only allow four each time. 

Journalist: Please take good care of yourselves and stay safe. 

According to a leaked document posted on the Chinese website weibo.cn, the real number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Shandong Province is much higher than the officially published data by the Shandong health commission.

For example, the government publicly stated that there was one new confirmed case in Shandong on Feb. 22, but the internal document said that 61 patients were diagnosed with the virus that day.