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China Pushes for Quiet Burials as Coronavirus Death Toll Is Questioned

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Liu Pei’en held the small wooden box that contained his father’s remains. Only two months ago, he had helplessly clutched his father’s frail hand as the elderly man took his last breath, and the pain was still raw. He wept.

But there was little time, or space, for Mr. Liu to grieve. He said officials in the central Chinese city of Wuhan had insisted on accompanying him to the funeral home and were waiting anxiously nearby. Later, they followed him to the cemetery where they watched him bury his father, he said. Mr. Liu saw one of his minders taking photos of the funeral, which was over in 20 minutes.

“My father devoted his whole life to serving the country and the party,” Mr. Liu, 44, who works in finance, said by phone. “Only to be surveilled after his death.”

For months, the residents of Wuhan had been told they could not pick up the ashes of their loved ones who had died during the height of China’s coronavirus outbreak. Now that the authorities say the epidemic is under control, officials are pushing the relatives to bury the dead quickly and quietly, and they are suppressing online discussion of fatalities as doubts emerge about the true size of the toll.

China’s official death toll from the coronavirus stood at 3,322 on Friday, but medical workers and others have suggested the count should be higher. The C.I.A. has warned the White House for weeks that China vastly understated its epidemic, current and former American intelligence officials say.

As China tries to control the narrative, the police in Wuhan, where the pandemic began, have been dispatched to break up groups on WeChat, a popular messaging app, set up by the relatives of coronavirus victims. Government censors have scrubbed images circulating on social media showing relatives in the city lining up at funeral homes to collect ashes. Officials have assigned minders to relatives like Mr. Liu, to follow them as they pick burial plots, claim their loved ones’ remains and bury them, grieving family members say.

“Where is the dignity after death?” Mr. Liu asked. “Where is the humanity?”

The ruling Communist Party says it is trying to prevent large gatherings from causing a new outbreak. But its tight controls appear to be part of a concerted attempt to avoid an outpouring of anguish and anger that could be a visceral reminder of its early missteps and efforts to conceal the outbreak. Those same public displays or discussions of loss could also feed skepticism over how China has counted the dead.

Wuhan accounted for nearly two-thirds of China’s total infections and more than three-quarters of its deaths. But in the early weeks of the outbreak, medical workers said many deaths from the coronavirus weren’t counted because of a shortage of test kits.

More recently, a truck driver cited in a report by Caixin, an influential newsmagazine, talked about dropping off thousands of boxes for storing ashes at Hankou Funeral Home, one of eight funeral homes in the city. While the numbers raised doubts about the death toll, it was unclear whether the boxes were used for just coronavirus victims or more broadly.

The Chinese government says it has been open and transparent about the scale of the outbreak within its borders. But the party also wants to closely orchestrate how the epidemic’s victims should be mourned and remembered. It is portraying them as martyrs and compatriots who gave their lives in the fight against the spread of the disease, rather than victims of an outbreak.

The government held a nationwide day of mourning on Saturday, the day of the annual Tomb Sweeping Festival, a time for honoring ancestors. Entertainment activities stopped, flags flew at half-staff, and alarms and horns sounded for three minutes starting at 10 a.m.

The official mourning will probably not be enough to soothe many families in Wuhan who have chafed against the state’s efforts to assert control over the grieving process.

Some have demanded justice and accountability from the government, hoping that their loved ones did not die in vain. The government fired two top local officials in February, presumably over the bungling of the initial response, but it has not said if it would conduct further investigations.

“I demand an explanation,” said Zhang Hai, a 50-year-old native of Wuhan whose father, Zhang Lifa, died after he was infected with the coronavirus in a hospital. He wants to know why it took officials weeks to inform the public that the virus could spread among humans. “Otherwise, I can’t give my father closure and I will never be at peace.”

Other residents have tried to find their own way to privately memorialize their loved ones with small, makeshift acts of remembrance.

Maria Ma, a 23-year-old design teacher at a college in Wuhan, knew that her grandfather would have wanted the family to hold a wake for him in a large tent in which relatives could keep vigil and friends could burn incense.

But when he and Ms. Ma’s grandmother died in January, his wish couldn’t be met. Instead, their bodies were quickly taken away and cremated.

With Wuhan under lockdown, Ms. Ma and her family had no choice but to make do with simple rituals at home. They burned “spirit money,” wads of paper printed to look like currency, following the custom of ensuring that loved ones have enough to spend in the afterlife. On the 49th day after her grandfather’s death, the men in Ms. Ma’s family cut their hair, also in line with tradition.

Still, she said, the family was racked with guilt over not being able to organize a proper funeral.

“We keep asking ourselves, ‘How could this have happened to our family?’” Ms. Ma said by phone. “We are just ordinary people. We never did anything bad to anyone.”

In recent days, as the official number of new cases in China has dwindled, the authorities in Wuhan have turned to dealing with deaths. Officials have paid families about $420 for each relative who died during the epidemic, regardless of the cause. Relatives of coronavirus victims are also entitled to a 30 percent discount on burial plots and free cremation services.

Some, like Peng Bangwen, are finding that the monetary support doesn’t address the stigma of the virus that extends even after death.

Mr. Peng wants to bury his father, Peng Andong, who died in early February, in the family’s ancestral home outside of Wuhan. But village officials rejected the idea, saying they didn’t want the remains of a coronavirus patient there.

“Whether it’s with a quiet and peaceful funeral, or a grand and ornate funeral, I just want to have it taken care of,” Mr. Peng, 32, who works at a hotel in Wuhan, said by phone. “Otherwise it is too cruel, both for me and for him.”

Others, like Mr. Liu, the finance worker who buried his father, are struggling to come to terms with their loss.

His father, Liu Ouqing, was a respected member of the Communist Party who had led a distinguished life as a civil servant and college administrator and had started enjoying retirement only in recent years. The father and son had grown closer, and the elder Mr. Liu doted on his 11-year-old granddaughter.

In January, the elder Mr. Liu had gone to a hospital in Wuhan for a regular checkup. There, he became infected with the coronavirus.

His son, who had sneaked into the hospital by pretending to be a patient, said Mr. Liu fought valiantly but knew his end was near. His father told him to look in the bedside drawer, where he had kept notes on his finances and recipes for his granddaughter’s favorite dishes.

On Jan. 29, he died, with his son by his side.

Mr. Liu, devastated, sought out a Buddhist priest, who conducted a ritual in a temple to monitor the state of his father’s soul. On some nights, Mr. Liu quietly read Buddhist prayers for his father.

Late last month, he received a call from the authorities notifying him to prepare for the burial.

Mr. Liu was assigned two officials, one from his father’s workplace and the other a local neighborhood worker, who said they were there to provide support. Last week, they went with him to Biandanshan Cemetery, in the city’s southwest. He chose the most expensive option, a south-facing plot that had mountains behind it and a lake below. It cost $14,000.

They held the funeral two days later. A label had been affixed to his father’s blank headstone noting the grave’s location: Row 24, Number 19. The tombstone would come later.

“Like a house without a door,” Mr. Liu said. With a marker, he wrote his father’s name at the top of the headstone.

When the burial was over, the officials asked the family to sign a form indicating that they had completed their assignment.

Two days later, Mr. Liu returned to the cemetery. This time, he went alone and spent an hour at his father’s grave. “Wait for me and Mom,” he told his father. “One day we will all live together in your new home.”

Mr. Liu said he would not stop pressing the government to punish the local officials responsible for initially concealing the outbreak and to provide fair compensation to the families of the victims.

“They think that I’ll go away now just because I’ve completed the burial?” he said. “No. I’m not finished yet.”

Yiwei Wang and Albee Zhang contributed research from Beijing. Alexandra Stevenson contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

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Health and Wellness

Daily Disposable Contact Lens: Are They For You?

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With the growing use of contact lenses due to their comfort level, various brands are manufacturing several categories of contact lenses based on wearability duration and doctors’ prescription. With the use of contact lenses, you can get the freedom from wearing spectacles all day long. You can comfortably enjoy the freedom of being active, soaking in the sun on a beach with your favorite sunglasses, and play your favorite sport without worrying about dropping off your spectacles.

                                                  

Based on your lifestyle, use, and prescription, you should choose between using a monthly or daily disposable contact lens. Find below a quick comparison to help you make a better choice.

  1. Scrutinize Your Lifestyle

If you’re more of an outgoing type of person and are more exposed to sweat, dirt, and pollutants, you should choose dailies over monthlies such that you can dispose them off daily and do not let dirt keep depositing on the lenses.

  • How Often Would You Use Them

If your contacts are not used often, and you wear them occasionally, daily use lenses would be a better option. You do not have to worry about cleaning and storing them daily. You can simply pull them off and discard them.

  • Risk of Infection

Whenever somebody lets their tears out while wearing contacts, proteins and lipids get deposited on the lenses, which do not get washed away even after cleaning. So it’s better to use daily disposable contact lenses such that you can simply throw them after wearing them all day long. Whereas, monthly use lenses let the impurities deposit on them and later harm your eyes.

  • Cost Comparison

If you compare monthly use with daily disposable contact lenses, you’ll find that monthly use lenses are more reasonable if you use lenses daily. But if you switch between lenses and spectacles, there’s no better option than daily use lenses.

  • Sensitivity of Eyes

If you have sensitive eyes, a daily disposable contact lens is a better option, and you can even consult your doctor for the same. Monthly use lenses might keep your eyes exposed to infections and cause severe damage to your eyes.

After going through the comparison between monthlies and dailies, let’s quickly walk through a few unbeatable benefits of daily disposable contact lenses.

  1. Level of Comfort

Daily disposable Contact lens prevents the lens from drying up because they provide a high hydration level as they are made of flexible and thinner material. They are easier to handle and deliver next-level comfort to your eyes.

  • Convenience

Convenience is most important while wearing lenses; otherwise, they might cause a hindered vision, thus, harming your eyes. Daily disposable contact lenses are fuss-free because you can simply throw them when you call it a day and not care for their storage or cleaning.

  • Health and Hygiene

To maintain your eye health and keep them away from the proteins being secreted from your eyes and the impurities, you should use a daily disposable contact lens to stay away from the infection.

  • Best for New Users

Daily Disposable Contact lens is the best option for the new users because they tend to tear them up or damage them. Women might tear them up with their long nails initially, whereas they might not be an issue later. Therefore, it’ll cost you less to damage dailies.

After the above comparison and the benefits of daily disposable contact lens, you should make a careful decision. Retailers like Titan Eyeplus provide you with contact lenses from all good brands to give your eyes extra protection and care. Choose the type of lenses that suits your eyes the most.

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Health and Wellness

3 Mistakes to Avoid While Visiting the Dubai Desert Safari

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You will miss out a massive experience if you are missing out the desert safari in Dubai. If you wish to enjoy Dubai desert safari to the utmost, it is important that you miss out the most common mistakes. Be conscious and make sure that you follow the guidelines so that you do not have to face trouble in the activity. 

Here are some of the common mistakes that you should avoid while visiting the Dubai Desert Safari. 

  1. Get Tickets Ahead:

If you are out there on behalf of a travel agency, you do not have to worry much as they might have arranged for the desert safari dubai tickets too. But somehow if you have not got your tickets confirmed yet, you should make sure to research well and get the tickets beforehand so that you do not have to rush at the last moment. 

  1. Carrying Proper Stuff:

Though there are stores for refreshments and others on your way to the safari, it is still crucial to carry important stuff from your hotel itself. It is a list of items that you should make sure to carry along with you. 

  • Carry jackets and shawls as it is going to be cold in the evening. Also, the light shawls will help in protecting your skin from the harsh rays of the sun. 
  • Carry your shades to protect your eyes.
  • Carry a bottle of sunscreen to keep your skin protected from the Sun. Also, do not forget to apply the sunscreen before leaving your hotel. 
  • Carry a good amount of water as you might get dehydrated due to the Sun. It is also a great idea to keep some refreshments along with you. 
  • Lastly, do not forget to keep your camera and extra cells so that you can photograph your best moments. 
  1. Strictly Follow The Guide:

You may face problems if you are taking the instructions offered by the guide quite lightly. You should make sure that you follow each and every guideline of the guide very carefully and abide by them. Here are some of the guidelines that often are missed that can lead to mishappens. 

  • If you are having a heavy meal just before the desert safari, it can ruin your entire experience. The safari will give you a feel of a roller coaster ride and you may feel extremely nauseatic if you have had a heavy meal. Guides instruct to have light food and that too a few hours before. 
  • If you are not wearing proper clothes, you may get fined as it is an Islamic country. Also, not wearing proper clothing can scorch your skin due to the direct sun rays. Listen to the guide about the clothing selecting that you make. 
  • Follow other instructions of the guide too such as not clicking photos of others and similar other strict rules due to which you may get into trouble. 

You can have a great experience at the Dubai desert safari if you are following the rules properly. Avoid the common mistakes and you can make memories to cherish throughout your life. 

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Health and Wellness

A Complete Guide to Health Insurance for Senior Citizens

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health insurance seniors

Ageing is a fact of life, and as we begin to see the wrinkles and other signs, it makes us wonder how these physiological changes are beyond our control. The risk of illnesses also increases as we grow older. It is, exactly, why those having elderly parents or grandparents at home need to be cautious and take measures to access quality medical care. Medical inflation is yet another reality that one cannot overlook. As medical treatments have become expensive, getting health insurance for senior citizens is a wise move. This customised health cover would give your loved ones the financial assistance to manage the expenses arising when dealing with age-related illnesses.

With so many insurers now offering senior citizen health insurance in India, it is not easy to get the right health cover unless one has done thorough research. Also, if you are opting for a senior citizen health plan for the first time, going through the following guide will help choose the best health policy.

  1. Look for High Sum Insured

Older adults face higher health risks. If one is dealing with an illness, it is essential to be financially ready to deal with hefty medical bills. Medical treatment at private hospitals, including advanced surgeries, can all increase the health care expenses. So, make sure to choose a health cover with a higher sum insured. While you get a high coverage amount, it does not necessarily imply high premium costs. You can get affordable coverage by comparing various senior citizen health insurance plans in India and calculating the premium costs using an online premium calculator.

  • Consider Waiting Period for Pre-existing Diseases

There is a likelihood of your elderly loved ones having a pre-existing disease. Hence, when you are reviewing different policies, make sure to check the waiting period on pre-existing diseases. Usually, it may be two or four years, depending on the insurer. Also, you must read the policy terms and conditions to know if the disease is covered or not. It will help you make a better decision and avoid any hassle when filing a claim.

  • Check the Co-payment Clause

Policy buyers should check the co-payment clause before finalizing a health policy for senior citizens. Co-payment is a feature wherein the policyholder has to bear a part of the claim amount. Most senior citizen plans include a co-payment clause, and the percentage may range between 10 and 30. Often, the premium reduces if one chooses a higher co-payment percentage. So, it is essential to consider these aspects when deciding on a health cover.

  • Find Alternative Treatment Cover

Insurers, nowadays, offer health insurance for senior citizens with alternative treatment cover. The popularity of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy) is growing by the day. As compared to allopathic medicine, these treatments are safe and are known to benefit people dealing with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension. So, select a plan that includes alternative treatment cover.

  • Know about Pre-policy Medical Check-up

Insurance companies ask senior citizens to undergo medical tests at the time of buying the policy. However, getting health insurance for senior citizens without a pre-policy medical check-up is now possible. Moreover, one can get a health cover online, which is faster and convenient and reduces paperwork.

  • Go for Cashless Hospitalisation

Nowadays, many insurers offer the cashless hospitalisation facility wherein the insurer pays the medical bills directly to the hospital on behalf of the insured. This facility is available only at a network hospital empanelled with the insurer. When picking a health policy for senior citizens, go for an insurer with a wide hospital network. For instance, Care Health Insurance has 11,000+ cashless healthcare providers.

Conclusion

In addition to the points mentioned above, one should also check the policy wordings and understand the sub-limits, exclusions, etc. Overall, the best senior citizen health policy should provide affordable and comprehensive coverage with the following benefits:

  • In-patient Hospitalisation
  • Pre and Post Hospitalisation
  • Domiciliary Hospitalisation
  • Day care Treatment
  • Ambulance Cover
  • Alternative Treatment
  • No Claim Bonus
  • Annual Medical Check-up

Further, senior citizens are eligible for tax deductions on the premium, up to Rs 50,000, according to the Income Tax Act. Considering these benefits, health insurance for senior citizens proves to be crucial financial support during one’s retirement years.

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