Many animals in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, have starved to death after residents evacuated their homes after a lockdown, animal advocates said.

“We know that many dogs and cats have been left behind in apartments in Wuhan, in particular, when residents were evacuated, but also in other areas such as Beijing, Dalian, Xi’am,” Wendy Higgins, director of international media at Humane Society International, told CNN.

Nearly a month after the lockdown, many residents have not yet returned to their homes. They might have left some food, but it only lasted for a few days.

Vshine Animal Protection Association, a China-based animal welfare and environmental organization and partner of Humane Society International, estimated tens of thousands of animals left behind in apartments in the Hubei cities.

Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) reported a Pomeranian tested “weak positive” for novel coronavirus in late February. However, AFCD reminded everyone not to panic as there is still no evidence that the virus could be transmitted to humans.

“At present, the AFCD does not have evidence that pet animals can be infected with COVID-19 virus or can be a source of infection to people,” AFCD said in a statement.

Still, the news alarmed many residents with some local government officials posting warnings for pet owners to keep their animal companions inside their homes.

Deng Fang, chief of staff for Vshine Animal Protection Association, shared with CNN that a group called the Urban Construction Administration stated it would start killing cats and dogs found outside their homes to prevent the transmission of the disease.

Reuters also reported that Zheijang, a province with the most infections after Hubei, also warned the community that dogs found out in public would be killed.

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