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Crowds try to flee Shanghai Ikea store to avoid strict COVID-19 lockdown in China

Footage shows guards fail to quarantine Shanghai Ikea store.

Just two possible COVID-19 cases have sparked chaotic scenes in Shanghai, with crowds of people seen running out of a building and an Ikea store, trying to escape a lockdown under China's strict coronavirus rules.

The country's zero-COVID strategy involves snap lockdowns and quarantines, sometimes over just a handful of cases, and the measures have sparked anxiety and anger in some cities.

Videos widely shared on social media and verified by AFP news agency showed a small group of PPE-clad personnel trying to keep the main doors of a Shanghai building closed on Friday, after a worker there was identified as a close contact of a COVID case.

A large crowd is then seen bursting past the outnumbered staff, running away from the building as onlookers film the scene on their mobile phones.

Some people were seen dragging what appeared to be a metal barricade several metres as they fled the mall.

Close contacts could face days of quarantine and monitoring under China's health rules.

A large group of people tried to escape a Shanghai Ikea store over a COVID-19 scare.  (Supplied: Yuezhianmian520Sunny/Weibo)

Similar scenes unfolded at an Ikea store in Shanghai's Xuhui district on Saturday, when health authorities tried to lock down customers in the store over an "abnormal" test result.

Video clips shared online showed a large group of people trying to leave.

In one clip, screams are heard as personnel try to keep doors closed. The crowd eventually pushes its way through the door and people are seen running past to try to get out.

The 25 million residents of Shanghai — China's biggest city — have grappled with harsh COVID rules since earlier this year, when the city was sealed off for two months to contain an outbreak of the virus.

The measures battered business activity and some residents reported trouble accessing food and non-COVID medical care.

They also sparked protests by frustrated residents against the authorities.

China reported 2,526 new coronavirus cases on August 15, of which 591 were symptomatic and 1,935 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said.

That's compared with 2,478 new cases a day earlier — 770 symptomatic and 1,708 asymptomatic infections, which China counts separately.

There were no new deaths, keeping the nation's fatalities at 5,226.

Hainan island COVID-19 outbreak cancels holiday plans for some 

Anger spilled over in the southern island of Hainan, where more than 80,000 tourists were stranded in the resort city of Sanya earlier this month because of a COVID flare-up.

The holiday city is battling an outbreak and reported 3,596 symptomatic and 4,497 asymptomatic cases between August 1 and August 15.

Li Zefeng had to cancel his trip to Xinjiang because he was locked down in Sanya. (Supplied: Li Zefeng)

Travellers in Sanya have been protesting, with social media posts last weekend showing crowds on the street shouting for local leaders to meet with them.

Li Zefeng, 25, was looking forward to a long-awaited trip to Xinjiang after spending weeks locked up after Shanghai's coronavirus lockdown.

But he found out himself locked down again in a rental property in Sanya on August 5. 

"When I went down to the ground floor around eight or nine o'clock in the morning, I found that the gate of our building was chained up, and there was a barrier in front of the doorway," Mr Li said. 

"A child living on the first floor has been confirmed positive, and residents living on the same floor have been taken to the quarantine centre. We were also asked to be quarantined at home as close contacts."

Now on day 12 of quarantine, Mr Li had to cancel his highly anticipated Xinjiang trip.

"I'm disappointed that I have to cancel the trip. I even quit my job in order to go to Xinjiang this March," he said.

In Tibet, authorities closed the Potala Palace, former home of the exiled Dalai Lama, on Tuesday last week after 22 COVID-19 cases were reported in the Himalayan region.

Tibet's economy is dependent on tourism and the Potala Palace is a key attraction, with hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

China is the only major economy still holding fast to a zero-COVID strategy. (Reuters)

China is the only major economy still holding fast to a zero-COVID strategy, stunting local tourism during peak travel seasons.

The country's borders have been largely closed since early 2020, halting international tourism.

AFP/Reuters — with additional reporting by Nicole Gong

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