Shoppers at Uniqlo on Nanjing Road West in Shanghai were trapped inside the flagship for 48 hours after a suspected COVID-19 case was traced to the store location.
Unsuspecting customers who were browsing on Thursday were subject to swab tests and required to spend a night in the street-level store alongside brand staff before they could leave. Similar scenarios have played out this past week at Plaza 1788 and the department store Jiuguang, which are situated on the main Nanjing Road retail artery, as well as Global Harbor mall. In addition, Plaza 66 had cases traced on Jan. 6 and 10 to the Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton stores. The Louis Vuitton store inside Plaza 66 was shut down for half a day before reopening, although the mall itself did not cease operations.
Chinese social media has filled up with photos of people sleeping in makeshift spots in closed cafés and stores and passageways of malls while waiting the two-day period. They are given basic necessities like blankets, toiletries and food.
“On the way home from work I passed by Uniqlo and I decided to take a quick browse,” said one Weibo user. “I got in for no more than two minutes before a broadcast in the store announced they were closing. Then suddenly I was trapped in Uniqlo. I waited five hours before getting swabbed and I’m still waiting for the results.”
A number of residential compounds around the city have also been cordoned off as COVID-19 hot spots. Residents are banned from leaving their residence until 48-hour testing and contact tracing is completed. Any confirmed cases of COVID-19 are put into hotel quarantine for two weeks.
In November, a single positive case at Shanghai Disneyland required around 34,000 people in the park to get tested before leaving. However, these wait times and lockdowns pale in comparison to what cities in the north are enduring.
China is battling to contain new outbreaks of COVID-19 right before Chinese New Year and the Beijing Winter Olympics, adhering to a strict zero-COVID-19 approach. It has already put 20 million people in strict lockdown including Xian, Anyang and Yuyang. Xian residents have been sequestered in their homes for nearly a month. Tianjin, a satellite city close to Beijing, has required the city’s entire population of 14 million to be tested twice, forcing residents to wait for hours in long lines in the winter cold.
While these strict measures have come at mounting social and economic costs — Xian residents complained of lack of food and there was outrage over fatalities after non-COVID-19 patients were turned away from hospitals — these sudden lockdowns have also produced lighter, comedic moments. One Zhengzhou woman’s video blogs went viral after she posted about being trapped for days in the apartment of a blind date her parents had set up.