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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.

Go deeper

Jan 15, 2022 - Health

Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics

A man looks out at a security guard from behind a fence Jan. 14 at a Beijing hotel housing those who have arrived for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Beijing on Saturday reported its first locally transmitted case of Omicron, less than three weeks before the start of the Winter Olympics, Reuters reports.

Driving the news: Lab testing found "mutations specific to the Omicron variant" of COVID-19 in the individual, an official at the city's disease control authority told a news briefing, per Reuters.

Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks has dropped plans to require that U.S. workers get the COVID vaccine or submit to weekly testing, the company announced Tuesday in a memo to employees.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

2 hours ago - World

Netanyahu plea talks enter crunch time

Netanyahu (right) meets with his lawyer ahead of a court hearing last February. Photo: Reuven Casto/Pool/AFP via Getty

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's opposition leader and former prime minister, is negotiating a possible plea deal over the corruption charges against him, but Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit appears to be toughening his terms.

Why it matters: Mandelblit leaves office on Jan. 31. Negotiations could continue beyond that point, but the next attorney general may be less interested in quickly reaching a deal.

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