China is aiming for the “Zero COVID” Olympics

Athletes need to be vaccinated — or face long quarantine — take daily tests and wear masks when not competing or training. Applause is fine to support your teammates, not chanting. Those who test positive for COVID-19 will be quarantined and will not be able to compete until they are allowed to leave the hospital.

Welcome to the Beijing Olympics. Here, as Omicron promotes infection around the world, strict containment measures aim to create a virus-resistant “bubble” for thousands of international visitors.

The preventive protocol is similar to that of the Tokyo Olympics this summer, but much more stringent. China has maintained a “zero COVID” policy since the early days of the pandemic, which is not straightforward in Beijing.

Still, China’s ability to stick to the zero-tolerance approach nationwide has already been tested with a highly contagious Omicron variant that is more contagious than previous variants of the virus and better avoids vaccine protection. It has been.


In the weeks leading up to the start of the Games on February 4, more than 20 million people have been blocked in six cities since the recent outbreak.

The game mechanics is as follows.

Do athletes need to be vaccinated?

Yes. To enter the designated Olympic area without completing the 21-day quarantine, other participants, including athletes, team staff and news media, must be fully vaccinated. These areas consist of the Olympic Village, game venues, other carefully selected spots and dedicated transportation.

This is different from the Tokyo Olympics, where participants did not have to be vaccinated.

Participants are considered fully vaccinated according to the definitions outlined in their country. Before boarding a flight, you also need to provide two recent negative tests from an approved lab.


The threat of being on the sidelines with a positive test is increasing the pressure on athletes.

Mogul skier Hannah Soar said she avoided contact with people indoors and behaved as if everyone was infected with the virus. “Basically, we are in the stage of acting like March 2020.”

What about your daily life?

Upon arrival at the Beijing airport, participants will be measured for temperature and examined with a cotton swab in their throat and nose. An Olympic official who recently arrived at the scene said at a press conference that it took him 45 minutes, but the organizers said the time might be different.

The bus then takes the people to the designated accommodation, where they wait up to 6 hours to clear the test results to move to the approved area. Restrictions on movement within that “closed loop” are intended to block potential contact between Olympic participants and locals.

A test pharyngeal swab is required daily for all participants. In Tokyo, participants spit into vials for antigen testing.


Standard precautions are encouraged, such as room ventilation and keeping a distance of about 3 feet (1 meter) from others, or 6 feet (2 meters) from athletes.

N95 or similar caliber masks are also needed in indoor and outdoor areas, with a few exceptions, such as when people are eating and drinking. The dining room has partitions that reduce the number of seats to keep the distance.

You can’t talk in places where you can’t keep a distance, such as an elevator. Staff are stationed in key areas to guide people and ensure that the protocol is followed.

What if an athlete does a positive test?

In Tokyo, organizers say 33 athletes tested positive during the tournament. Of those, 22 have withdrawn from the competition. Even with strict precautions in Beijing, experts say that some positive tests are likely to be done, especially when Omicron is involved.


If the athlete or other participants are positive on the test but have no symptoms, they should be quarantined in a private hotel. They are served meals and can open windows for fresh air, but cannot leave the room. According to the organizer, it will be about 270 square feet (25 square meters).

Athletes can request fitness equipment for training.

Asymptomatic individuals can leave quarantine after two days of negative testing. According to the organizers, positives on these tests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, but it may still be too late for athletes to compete.

As a rule, the organizer says the panel will review people who have been positive for the test for more than 14 days.

People who test positive and have symptoms must be quarantined in the hospital. They also need a two-day negative test and three days of room temperature and symptoms to subside to be released.


Organizers say athletes who recover after a positive test before the competition will also be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in a “more flexible way.”

Do you have fans?

Audiences from overseas are not allowed to enter. As for local fans, Beijing organizers say they have finalized the rules for their attendance.

It is not clear how recent outbreaks around China will affect the decision. However, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics also planned to allow some domestic fans before discarding the idea due to the surge in local incidents. The result is a surrealistic scene of athletes competing in an empty stadium.

Even if some fans are allowed in Beijing, their presence will be muted. Instead of screaming and singing, as in the plan in Tokyo, everyone is asked to applaud.


Does it work?

Despite the surge in Omicron fuel that has hit many parts of the world, including China, organizers may be able to make the Olympics a success without fearful confusion.

Dr. Sandro Galea, a public health expert at Boston University, said Olympic athletes are eager to avoid infection and compete. And while difficult with Omicron, he said it’s not a mystery what people need to do to avoid infection. Take precautions such as limiting exposure to others.


AP Sports writer Pat Graham contributed from Denver.


The Associated Press’s Department of Health Sciences is supported by the Science Education Department of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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China is aiming for the “Zero COVID” Olympics

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