Security guards in protective clothing against pollution, ready to prevent anyone from leaving the building. Athletes conduct interviews behind plastic walls. Underarm thermometers all day, with small transmitters to set off an alarm if someone develops a fever.
We are only six months away from the Beijing Winter Olympics, and Chinese officials are planning detailed precautions against COVID-19. It is expected to exceed the measures adopted at the Tokyo Olympics, which ended on Sunday with more than 400 infections reported.
China has made it clear that containing the virus will be its top priority. On July 30, with the number of cases rising in Tokyo, organizers of the Beijing Winter Olympics announced plans to renovate the 39 venues where the competitions will be held. Workers are installing corridor partitions and building new latrines and other facilities.
The design changes are aimed at ensuring that the athletes have virtually no contact with referees, spectators and journalists, and these three other groups of participants will remain separate from one another. The goal is to reduce cross-contamination.
“These complementary prevention measures are neither too daunting in terms of the scale of construction required nor difficult in terms of construction complexities,” said Liu Yumin, representative of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Beijing Olympics. “All competition venues will be ready in time.”
China has decided to take a zero-tolerance approach to the coronavirus since it came under relative control last year. The Chinese border is almost completely closed.
The country’s government is working to stem outbreaks sporadically with lockdown measures covering entire cities. A large number of people are mobilized to conduct tests for possible infected people and to trace the infection. Scattered outbreaks of the delta variant in recent days have caused more serious than usual concerns among the authorities.
In Tokyo, authorities banned spectators from almost all Olympic competitions. International participants have been instructed to stay in specially designated hotels and use special buses to travel to and from the events.
But the application of these measures was lenient, and the media witnessed numerous violations. Participants who are resident in Japan and allowed to move from their homes to locations within the Olympic “bubble” account for about two-thirds of the injuries reported during the Games.
China plans to take a tougher approach. For the Winter Olympics, which will be held from February 4-20, the authorities aim to isolate 1.4 billion Chinese from all athletes, referees, judges, drivers, guides, journalists and other participants in the events.
When the games are over, almost all participants will have to quickly leave China. The alternative is to undergo weeks of complete isolation in government-run quarantine centers, where they will undergo numerous medical examinations.
Among those will be thousands of Chinese workers, who will have to live in the bubble for the duration of the Games and only “re-enter” the rest of China after undergoing an extended quarantine. No decision has been announced regarding mandatory vaccinations or a shorter quarantine for people arriving from abroad.
People familiar with the planning, who insisted on anonymity because it is not authorized, said China would consider the Games a success if it unified the country and boosted its international image without causing a new outbreak of the disease, especially outside the bubble. to discuss it publicly. They stated that threats to the country’s health or security will not be tolerated.
The regulators did not reveal the full extent of the safeguards, which are still expected to develop in the coming months. The Beijing organizing committee responded to questions by e-mail containing previous official statements.
But some details have been announced. Journalists will have to interview athletes separated by thick plastic walls. The microphones will be covered with protective foam covers, which will be replaced after each interview. Like Tokyo, Beijing plans to severely limit the number of people allowed to attend the Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies.
Japan has banned entry for foreign spectators, but has allowed more than 42,000 accredited participants to enter the games in the country. Beijing has already said that fewer than 30,000 people, including approved participants, will be allowed into its territory during the Winter Games, but decisions regarding foreign spectators have yet to be announced.
“Easier and more graceful editing has become mandatory due to security concerns,” said Zhong Bingshu, a Beijing city official.
No information was provided on Olympic quarantine facilities. But overall, China’s leading medical experts have concluded that the country’s hotels, while comfortable, do not provide adequate infection control.
Therefore, new approaches were developed. For example, nearly 2,000 pre-fabricated, stackable metal containers for individual quarantine were assembled during this year’s outbreak in Shijiazhuang, about an hour’s drive south of Beijing.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has generally avoided discussions about Covid-19 protocols at the Beijing Winter Olympics. At a news conference last Thursday in Tokyo, commission spokesman Mark Adams hinted that little had been taken.
“It’s hard to talk about the February games,” he said. “All I can say is that we will do everything in our power to ensure that the best possible conditions are created for all participants in the framework necessary to deal with the ongoing pandemic, which, unfortunately, will almost certainly continue to have a strong impact. In February next year.”
During the Tokyo Olympics, leaders of the various National Olympic Committees exchanged information, while concern grew about measures that China might impose on the Beijing Olympics. Most seem to think the restrictions seen in Tokyo will be next to nothing by comparison.
Some athletes desperately needed to know what to expect. Windsurfing such as skis, skates, and skateboarding, for example, should be aware of the paths that athletes travel at dangerous speeds and in high winds.
Prior to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old Georgian athlete seeking to qualify for the bobsleigh event, died when he lost control of his bobsleigh in a test run; It flew off the runway and crashed into a support structure directly.
The UK plans to send a group of athletes in these categories to Beijing as early as October. They were told that they should prepare to spend more than a month there, under conditions described as “severe lockdown”.
Beijing Olympic organizers have provided videos, filmed by “drones”, detailing clues for teams that cannot go to the country early for training. There are those who expect Chinese athletes to perform better in kitesurfing than they might otherwise be, given the challenges their competitors will have to face.
Many people in Japan have criticized the decision to hold the Olympics after all, fearing that visitors will cause more infections. While there has been little discussion of the Winter Olympics on the Chinese internet, which operates under censorship, the government is watching for signs of popular discontent and has every reason to try to reassure people that there will be no new dangers.
China has been promoting its use of technology to fight the virus. On Friday, the People’s Daily, a Chinese government newspaper, released an invention in use in Wuhan, the city where the virus first emerged: a robot that obtains samples for Covid-19 tests using a wand that extracts material from examinees. throat.
The publication did not talk about the use of this robot at the Olympics, and the Beijing organizing committee did not respond to questions about it. But China has tested a technology that will be used in the games: armpit thermometers affixed to stickers, transmitting the wearer’s temperature.
More than 600 people were fitted with a sticky thermometer during a trial in Beijing Stadium in the second quarter, and one of them developed a fever, which was quickly detected.
The government later announced that “the local authorities quickly activated the epidemic rescue and prevention mechanism, and conducted a review of the epidemic, until a negative result was obtained in the nucleic acid test.”
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