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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.

Updated 3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.

Texas abortion law remains in effect after appeals court ruling

Pro- and anti-abortion protesters outside the Supreme Court as arguments begin about the Texas abortion law on Capitol Hill in November. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

A U.S. appeals court transferred a challenge to Texas' law banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy to the state supreme court in a 2-1 vote on Monday evening.

Why it matters: The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision means the country's most restrictive abortion law can remain in place for the time being.

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