HIGH sulphur dioxide levels in quarantined Wuhan and Chongqing could signal mass cremations, it’s been claimed.
Satellite maps in recent days have detected alarming levels of SO2 around Wuhan which is the epicentre of the outbreak.
The city of Chongqing, which is also under quarantine, also has high sulphur dioxide levels.
Scientists believe this is produced when bodies are cremated but also when medical waste is incinerated.
But some social media users who have probed the maps are convinced it is a sure sign of large numbers of dead bodies being burned on the outskirts of the city.
Chinese authorities have ordered that coronavirus victims should be cremated in low-key funerals and bans large public gatherings.
Earlier this month it was decreed that bodies should be “cremated close by and immediately”.
One map from Czech-based weather service Windy.com showed sulphur dioxide levels in Wuhan at a staggering 1,350 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) over the weekend.
Yet the World Health Organisation (WHO) says a safe dosage is 500 µg/m3
The UK government says a 15-minute concentration of 533 µg/m3 is “high”.
Wuhan and Chongqing stand out when compared to the rest of China.
But it is not certain that the high SO2 levels are down to burning virus victims because the colourless gas is also produced by the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil and through industry.
The areas around Beijing and Shanghai, which are not on lockdown, also displayed high levels of SO2 today.
Environmental scientist Dr Jorge Emmanuel told Health Care Without Harm the burning of medical supplies releases a number of pollutants.
In a bold claim, Chinese-language news outlet Initium believe that Chinese authorities have been cremating bodies in secret.
Ten days ago they interviewed people working at local cremation centres in Wuhan — where the virus originated from — who said bodies were being sent directly from hospitals without being properly identified and added to the official record.
“There are reasons to remain sceptical about what China has been sharing with the world,” said DW News East Asia correspondent William Yang.