China’s Winter Olympics ‘bubble’ is now sealed off

China's Winter Olympics ‘bubble’ is now sealed off
China's Winter Olympics ‘bubble’ is now sealed off

China, where the COVID-19 was first detected in late 2019, has vigorously pursued a “zero-tolerance” strategy on coronavirus.

The country is now taking the same approach to limit the COVID-19 pandemic’s potential effect on the XXIV Olympic Winter Games, which set to commence in Beijing on February 4, 2022.

A month from the start of the Winter Olympics, China has sealed off its games “bubble” for what is expected to be the world’s strictest mass sporting event since the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting from today, thousands of games-related staff, volunteers, cleaners, cooks and coach drivers will be cocooned for weeks in the so-called “closed loop” with no direct physical access to the outside world. Most major venues are outside of Beijing.

The isolation approach contrasts with the COVID-delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics which allowed some movement in and out for volunteers and other personnel.

Journalists from across the world and roughly 3,000 athletes are expected to start arriving in the city in the weeks ahead and will remain in the bubble from the moment they land until they leave the country.

Anyone entering the bubble must be fully vaccinated or face a 21-day quarantine when they touch down. Inside, everyone will be tested daily and must wear face masks at all times.

The system includes dedicated transport between venues, with even “closed-loop” high-speed rail systems operating in parallel to those open to the public. It is set to be operating well into late March and possibly early April.

Fans will not be part of the “closed loop” and organizers will have to ensure that they do not mingle with athletes and others inside the bubble.

Authorities are anxious to prevent any outbreak of the highly transmissible Omicron variant from spreading across the country, so people who live inside China must also quarantine upon leaving the bubble to return home.

In a recent interview, Zhao Weidong, head of the Olympic organizing committee’s media department, said Beijing was “fully prepared”.

“Hotels, transportation, accommodation, as well as our science and technology-led Winter Olympics projects are all ready,” Zhao said.

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