Feb 1, 2022 - Sports

What to know about the Winter Olympics' COVID protocols

: A guard looks out through a small window from behind a gate as a pedestrian walks by in front of a fenced-in hotel being used as part of the "closed loop" system for the Beijing Winter Olympics.
A masked pedestrian walks by a fenced-in hotel being used as part of the "closed loop system" for the Beijing Winter Olympics. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Athletes and other attendees of the Beijing Winter Olympics will endure some of the strictest COVID-prevention protocols ever created for an event as organizers attempt to pull off a coronavirus-free Games.

Driving the news: While the general public and outside spectators aren't allowed to attend, 11,000 people from around the world are expected in Beijing. Officials have implemented strict measures, including a "closed-loop system" meant to shut off the outside world entirely.

Getting into the closed loop
A medical worker scans the Olympic credentials of a video technician from Belgium at a COVID-19 testing site set up inside a hotel in Beijing. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

To enter the closed loop, which includes all competition and training venues, athletes and other Olympic attendees are required to be fully vaccinated or to have quarantined for 21 days and must test negative for the virus twice within 96 hours of departure, according to the Olympic Playbook.

  • There are some medical exemptions for vaccination, including certain clotting disorders and allergies, but these must be approved by a panel of medical experts.
  • Participants will be tested again on arrival, and there will be daily screening tests for COVID during the Games.
  • Anyone who tests positive for the virus will be taken by "dedicated transport" to an isolation facility or a hospital.
  • Athletes can request exercise equipment to train.
  • People attending the Games can't use public transportation. Olympic attendees will be able to use "Games-dedicated" transport, which includes a user-paid taxi service, to travel within the closed loop.
At the Winter Games
A worker cleans seats inside the National Speed Skating Oval during a scheduled speedskating practice session. Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP

Masks that are N95 or of "equivalent standard of protection" are required at all times except when "training, competing, eating, drinking, sleeping," or when alone.

  • Other standard mitigation measures will be enforced, including keeping a distance of six feet from others, regularly ventilating rooms and not sharing items wherever possible.
  • Spectators can support athletes by clapping, but "shouting, cheering and singing" aren't permitted.
  • Attendees are instructed to refrain from talking in enclosed spaces, such as elevators, and avoid staying an "unnecessarily long time in any space."
  • Athletes and other Olympic attendees will be required to submit to a temperature check before being admitted to training and competition venues.
  • People will be watching: Staff will be positioned in key areas where "people are likely to gather" to ensure that all preventative measures are followed.
  • If athletes test positive for COVID during the Games but are asymptomatic, they will be transported to a designated hotel for isolation. They will be eligible to leave isolation after testing negative for the virus twice, but some athletes risk missing their events.
  • Athletes who test positive for the virus and experience symptoms will be taken to a designated hospital for isolation. They will also be eligible to leave isolation following two negative test results.
Leaving China
A municipal worker rides a cart past the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest. The opening and closing ceremonies will be held at the venue. Photo: Ng Han Guan/AP

Athletes will be told to leave China within 48 hours of their last competition to cut down on their risk of infection. Departures will be arranged using "temporary and charter flights only" to limit contact with the public.

  • Athletes and other Olympic attendees will be transported to Beijing Capital International Airport using "designated Games transport."
  • If a person opts to leave and re-enter the closed loop, they will have to "recomplete all pre-departure testing and entry requirements."
  • Attendees are advised to check their health and temperatures for at least 14 days after leaving the country.

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