China’s northeastern Heilongjiang Province has officially reported 448 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Jan. 18, but the public believes that the actual situation is much worse than the official data.
Wangkui county is the epicenter of the outbreak in the province. The situation is getting more severe, residents have told The Epoch Times. Local governments are enforcing stricter lockdown measures, and all residents are subject to mandatory testing. Many villages in Wangkui have been emptied out, with livestock and crops left behind unattended, they said.
Wangkui county, which is under the jurisdiction of Suihua city, is currently one of the four high-risk areas in mainland China. On Jan. 19, Wangkui authorities issued an announcement for tightened control measures for at least a week. Except for those in need of medical treatment and COVID-19 testing, all urban and rural residents of the county are prohibited from leaving their homes. Private vehicles have also been banned.
The announcement also prohibits public servants in both urban and rural areas from traveling between the city and local villages. Those whose families live in the county’s capital are forbidden to return to the city for the time being.
All townships have also been told they must take care of food supplies and accommodation by themselves. All canteens have canceled dine-in services, and group lodgings are strictly prohibited. Shopping malls are closed, and merchants have been prohibited from offering delivery services.
On Jan. 19, according to mainland Chinese media reports, the Suihua city government punished 16 officials for negligence in dealing with the epidemic, including the deputy county head of Wangkui and disease control officials.
Ms. Wang, a villager near Wangkui, told The Epoch Times that villages in Wangkui were being evacuated. “At first, they took away 300 people from two villages, and used seven buses to send them to Dula county. Some were put in hotels, some were relocated to local schools where the students are on vacation, and some people were put in nursing homes,” she said.
“A couple of days ago, people were taken away from two or three more villages,” she said of the situation. “Anyway, villagers in four or five villages in Wangkui were taken away. There were many police cars, small cars, and buses [at the scene]. I saw it and it’s scary. People were dragged away, children crying and women screaming.”
The Epoch Times obtained a video showing that on Jan. 15, medical tents were being set up in Wangkui to treat COVID-19 patients.
As for the livestock, poultry, and crops in evacuated villages, Wang told The Epoch Times that they all got left behind.
She said, “There is a family that raises 200 pigs that are ready for slaughter, but they cannot be sold anymore. No one dares to buy them. And with the family all taken away, nobody is caring for the pigs.”
She also said that chickens and ducks raised by the villagers were left behind. “They will probably starve to death.”
Some locals later told The Epoch Times that the livestock in the evacuated villages had to be buried.
Wang also said that people no longer dare to go buy crops such as corn and soybeans from Wangkui.
“There is a soybean collector in our township who went to Wangkui to buy beans. Then he was taken away for isolation two days ago. It’s said he was infected,” she said.
She added, “Nowadays, in group chats on social media, you’re not allowed to talk about the epidemic. Otherwise, they [the government] will say you are spreading rumors. They may arrest you because it involves the issue of the government’s reporting of case numbers.”
Wang Jiayi and Luo Ya contributed to this report.