(Minghui.org) The official death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak has already surpassed that of the SARS virus 17 years ago, but many experts warn that the real number could be much higher.

According to an exclusive interview by an undercover reporter for the Epoch Times, a senior official of a crematorium in Wuhan revealed that their daily intake has skyrocketed since January 22, peaking at 127 bodies on February 3. 

The official added that it was about four or five times the usual number of bodies. He complained that they are severely understaffed and have had to work almost around the clock to finish. 

Four other funeral homes in Wuhan also reported increases in their intake, based on undercover calls and revelations from crematorium employees.

It was reported that the local authorities are restricting diagnostic kits to hospitals in order to control the number of confirmed new infections. Many people with symptoms were told to go home and self-quarantine, without ever being tested. 

Chen Bingzhong, a former Chinese health ministry official, told the Epoch Times that the epidemic is out of control and Wuhan is now in a very dangerous situation. 

On February 1, Chinese media giant Tencent briefly displayed a death toll of 24,589 and infection cases of 154,023 on their “Epidemic Situation Tracker.” The numbers didn’t stay up for long before being changed to agree with the government version. But many suspect there is someone behind the scenes leaking the real figures on the deaths and infections.

However high the real death toll is, the communist regime is strengthening its control of information as the coronavirus continues to spread. All medical personnel are forbidden from talking, phoning, texting, emailing, blogging, or WeChatting about the development of the epidemic and how they are treating their patients. Any “leakers” face prison time of between three and seven years.

Below is a brief timeline of the government’s response to the epidemic. It’s clear that the authorities knew about the outbreak much earlier, but their delayed response (“to maintain social stability”) has led them to miss the window of opportunity to contain the virus, which has now resulted in the exponential spread of it globally.

On December 8, 2019, the first coronavirus case was reported in Wuhan.

On December 30, 2019, Li Wenliang, an eye doctor in Wuhan, sent a message to a chat group made up of his medical school alumni, warning them of a new SARS-like virus.

On January 1, 2020, Li and seven other doctors were arrested for “spreading rumors.” This incident was reported in primetime on the state-run CCTV (China Central Television).

On January 3, 2020, the police reprimanded Dr. Li for publicizing fake information online. They warned him that he would face further prosecution if he continued such illegal activities. 

On January 8, 2020, Dr. Li was infected with the coronavirus by a female patient.

On January 10, 2020, Dr. Li began to cough and had a fever.

On January 11, 2020, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission released a statement that no medical personnel were found to have contracted the coronavirus nor was there any evidence of human-to-human transmission of the disease.

On January 19, 2020, Li Gang, director of the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that “the epidemic can be prevented and controlled.”

Also on January 19, the Baibuting neighborhood in Wuhan hosted a New Year feast. More than 40,000 families attended the event. City officials told reporters during the event that the novel coronavirus wasn’t expected to be contagious and the risk of human-to-human transmission was low.

On January 20, 2020, Zhong Nanshan, a respiratory expert and head of the health commission team investigating the outbreak of the new coronavirus, confirmed human-to-human transmission of the virus and that some medical personnel had already been infected. Shortly afterward, the official number of cases of infection rose dramatically.

On January 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US confirmed the first case in the state of Washington.

Around the same time (January 22 Beijing Time), the State Council Information Office in Beijing held its first press conference about the outbreak.

On January 23, 2020, the government in Wuhan announced the lockdown of the city. Within two days, 15 more cities in Hubei Province were also locked down. Zhou Xianwang, the mayor of Wuhan, told reporters that, due to busy holiday travel, half a million people had left Wuhan before the lockdown but nine million residents still remained.

On January 27, 2020, in response to criticism about the city’s delayed reaction to the virus, Zhou said in an interview with CCTV that the local government had to wait for authorization from Beijing before releasing sensitive information. 

On January 29, 2020, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Hubei Disease Prevention and Control Center published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) titled “Early Transmission Dynamics in Wuhan, China, of Novel Coronavirus–Infected Pneumonia.” 

The article concluded that “there is evidence that human-to-human transmission has occurred among close contacts since the middle of December 2019.”

On February 7, 2020, Dr. Li Wenliang, the whistleblower-doctor, died of the virus. He was 34.