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Shanghai Ikea lockdown sparks scramble as China enforces ‘zero covid’

A sudden lockdown at an Ikea store in Shanghai over the weekend unleashed a chaotic scene, as masked shoppers scrambled for the exits, amid an effort to quarantine those in the store after authorities learned that several customers had been exposed to the coronavirus.

Videos of the rush spread widely on social media, in part because they highlighted the growing gulf between China, where officials enforce a strict “zero covid” policy through mass testing and rapid lockdowns, and many other parts of the world, where business has resumed as usual, even as coronavirus cases remain high.

Videos were taken down from Chinese social media platforms shortly after they were posted.

In a statement released Sunday, the Shanghai Health Commission’s deputy director, Zhao Dandan, said a 6-year-old boy tested positive for the coronavirus and was in close contact with multiple people who went to Ikea in the city’s Xuhui district. Zhao did not disclose when the close contacts were at the store.

According to the BBC, the child tested positive after returning to Shanghai from Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. He remains asymptomatic and is under medical observation by Chinese authorities.

In a viral video, confused shoppers can be seen trapped in the Swedish-founded furniture store, pushing trolleys and with shopping bags in hand. Some were separated from companions by glass doors. In the background, a store closure announcement plays over a loudspeaker. In one clip, angry shoppers battle security guards at what appears to be a back door or fire exit.

A call to the store Monday evening went straight to voice mail.

Shanghai’s health authorities are requiring people with contacts who visited the Ikea store to quarantine for two days and conduct five days of health checks.

On Monday, the city of 25 million recorded six positive coronavirus cases, five of which were asymptomatic. More than 400 close contacts to the 6-year-old boy were identified; 80,000 people loosely connected to the child were ordered to take PCR tests, according to a weekend news release from the Shanghai Health Commission.

China is one of the only countries in the world to adopt a zero-covid policy — ordering mass testing and long-term quarantines in isolation centers and at home. In April, Shanghai was ordered to undergo a grueling two-month lockdown, spurring a mental health crisis and leaving thousands of residents without a steady supply of food. The emergence of the BA.5 variant sparked fears of another harsh lockdown in the city.

In a June speech in Wuhan, where the first case of the coronavirus was discovered, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that a “dynamic zero-covid policy” ensures the overall security and health of the population, “even if it temporarily somewhat impacts economic growth.”

Eva Dou in Beijing contributed to this report.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

The latest: The CDC has loosened many of its recommendations for battling the coronavirus, a strategic shift that puts more of the onus on individuals, rather than on schools, businesses and other institutions, to limit viral spread.

Variants: BA.5 is the most recent omicron subvariant, and it’s quickly become the dominant strain in the U.S. Here’s what to know about it, and why vaccines may only offer limited protection.

Vaccines: Vaccines: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 12 and older get an updated coronavirus booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant circulating now. You’re eligible for the shot if it has been at least two months since your initial vaccine or your last booster. An initial vaccine series for children under 5, meanwhile, became available this summer. Here’s what to know about how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections and booster history.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. The omicron variant is behind much of the recent spread.

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