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COVID-19 Infections Spike Among Olympics Personnel in China

Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
Published: January 31, 2022
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An employee wearing a hazmat suit stands as a member of the French Olympic Team (2nd,R) is having a Covid-19 pcr test upon arrival at the Beijing international airport on January 31, 2022 ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. (Image: ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)

With the 2022 Winter Olympics scheduled to kick off in Beijing in a few days, the Chinese regime is on high alert for any COVID-19 breakout. On Jan. 29, China reported 34 new infections among the Olympic Games-related personnel. 

23 of the infections were among fresh airport arrivals while the remaining 11 were detected in the “closed loop” bubble exclusive to those involved in the event. The bubble separates Olympic athletes and personnel from the common people.

In order to identify infected people within the bubble as quickly as possible, those inside are required to undergo a PCR COVID-19 test on a daily basis. Individuals who get a positive result will have to isolate themselves in a hotel. Only after they get two negative PCR results 24 hours apart will the individuals get permission to leave isolation.

In a recent press conference, the games’ medical chief Brian McCloskey pointed out that China is going through a “peak period” in terms of international arrivals. As such, he expects COVID-19 numbers to be at the highest levels. However, organizers are confident about the epidemic control policies in place and infections are unlikely to leave the bubble, he added. However, the intense testing and strict regulations are getting on the nerves of some players.

“It’s annoying that every morning you need to get up a little earlier specially to get a PCR test. I think that in a few days, it will be like brushing your teeth… Everyone is concerned that the test result will suddenly turn out to be positive. But the reality is such that we are living with Covid. We accept all the risks and fears,” Russian hockey player Anton Slepyshev told RIA news agency.

Cumbersome measures

In addition to daily tests, everyone in the bubble is expected to wear face masks at all times. Only those who are either fully vaccinated or have spent 21 days in quarantine will be allowed entry into the bubble. 

Athletes who are in the bubble will remain inside until it is time to go back home. The rules are also applicable to all support personnel like drivers, cooks, volunteers, etc. All Olympic vehicles have a red sign at the front. Authorities have asked the public to stay away from such Olympic vehicles even at the time of an accident.

The strict Olympic regulations have ended the medal hopes of some athletes. In a social media post, Russian biathlete Valeria Vasnetsova said that her Olympics dream “will remain just a dream” after testing positive twice. Many athletes are worried that they might not even get to compete in the games despite preparation.

“You’re like just so stressed about making sure you’re as safe as you can be… Yet at the same time, there’s no way to be 100 percent safe… There have been a lot of athletes that are testing positive right now and it’s scary because you put in four years since the last Games and for all of that to go to waste in the last week, last couple of days, it would be a tragedy,” American luger Chris Mazdzer said to reporters.

The Winter Olympics will begin on Feb. 4 and last until Feb. 20. Foreign spectators are barred from attending the games. Beijing has decided not to sell tickets openly to the general public. Instead, authorities will choose spectators who will also have to abide by the COVID-19 regulations. The government has advised people to not travel to other parts of China.