Jan 14, 2022 - Sports

Ultra-strict lockdowns preview what's in store for Beijing Olympics

A man ice skating on an outdoor rink in Shenyang, Liaoning Province of China.
An outdoor rink in Shenyang, Liaoning Province of China. Photo: Huang Jinkun/VCG via Getty Images

With the Beijing Winter Olympics beginning three weeks from today, ultra-strict lockdowns in Chinese cities provide a glimpse of what the games' protocols will look like.

State of play: China may be the last country on Earth still adhering to a "zero COVID" policy. Rather than relying on vaccines and carefully reopening, China's goal is still to contain the virus via lockdowns.

  • More than 20 million people across five cities, including Xi'an, remain confined to their homes, per AP.
  • But COVID has made its mark despite those measures. The port town of Tianjin is experiencing an outbreak that has Olympic officials worried because Beijing is just 80 miles away.

The big picture: Protocols for Olympic athletes and the thousands of other people involved in the games are similarly stringent.

  • All athletes must test negative twice within 96 hours of their flight, and unvaccinated athletes must quarantine for 21 days upon arrival. Masks are required and testing will occur daily.
  • There are four separate bubbles for athletes, media, observers and local workers, with closed-loop transportation systems for travel between venues.

The last word: "If they can pull this off without causing any major outbreaks, it would be another gold medal that China would be happy to claim," Yanzhong Huang, director of the Center for Global Health Studies at Seton Hall, told NYT.

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