Community workers in Shiyan reportedly found the body of a 70-year-old man who had been dead for “two or three days” at his home in the city’s Zhangwan district. His grandson, aged five or six, was also present, Guo Ruibing, vice deputy director of the publicity department for Zhangwan district, told local media.
Users on Weibo, China’s main social media platform, have claimed that the boy survived on biscuits and, when asked why he had not left the home, told health workers: “Grandpa said not to leave. There is a virus outside.”
Officials in China have denied reports that the man, discovered on Monday, had been dead for three days.
With Shiyan on lockdown as part of efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, health officials have been paying daily visits on residents to check their temperature and food supplies.
The specific time and cause of the man’s death are “still under further investigation” and will be announced by the Zhangwan district party committee.
According to local media reports, the grandson has since been taken into care by the district and is in “good health”.
The child’s father is reportedly in Guangxi province, to the south of Hubei, and cannot return due to the lockdown measures.
News of the boy’s ordeal has triggered widespread outrage online, with the Chinese government facing continuing criticism of its handling of Covid-19. It has also been accused of supressing information regarding the full scale of the outbreak.
“This thing made me so sad and distressed that I couldn’t live my life at ease,” wrote one user on Weibo.
“This is not the first time an old man has died, leaving only one child at home,” another said. “You are the victims of the National People’s home confinement.”
In an attack on the government and the spreading of mistrust and misinformation, one individual wrote: “The reason why rumours are so common among the people is because they are so en vogue among the government.”
Zhangwan district in Shiyan was the first to enforce what have been described as “wartime” quarantine measures.
Mainland China has recorded more than 81,000 cases of coronavirus and 2,769 deaths since the first outbreak in Wuhan – 270 miles south of Shiyan – late last year.
Outside of China, Covid-19 has spread to more than 30 countries worldwide, with fears rising that the virus is rapidly approaching a pandemic scale.