Jan 4, 2022: One month ahead of hosting the Winter Olympics, Beijing has shut down its sporting “bubble”, which is expected to be the world’s heaviest-scale sporting event since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
China, where the corona virus was first detected in late 2019, has adopted a zero tolerance strategy on COVID-19. It is now using the same approach to limit the potential impact of the pandemic on the February 4-20 Winter Olympics and the subsequent Paralympics.
Starting Tuesday, thousands of game-related staff, volunteers, cleaners, cooks and coach drivers will be kept in a so-called “closed loop” for weeks with no direct physical access to the outside world. Most important locations are outside the capital.
Journalists from around the world and about 3,000 athletes are expected to start arriving in the city in the coming weeks and stay in the bubble from the time they land until they leave the country.
Anyone who enters the bubble should be fully vaccinated or face a 21-day quarantine when they touch down. Inside, everyone will be tested daily and will have to wear a face mask at all times.
The system includes dedicated transport between destinations, and even “closed loop” high-speed rail systems operate in parallel with the public. It is ready to work well in late March and possibly early April. The spectators will not be part of the “closed loop” and the organizers will have to make sure that they do not mix with the players and others inside the bubble.
Authorities are anxious to prevent any spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variety across the country, so people inside China should also be quarantined for leaving the bubble to return home. Still, many were looking forward to the games.
Nevertheless, the pandemic has not been the only challenge facing organizers. Some Western governments, including the United States, Britain and Canada, have announced diplomatic boycotts in protest of the treatment of Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang region.
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