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December 24, 2021

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Beijing 2022 organizers expect certain number of COVID cases

ORGANIZERS of the Beijing Winter Olympics said yesterday they expect a “certain number” of COVID-19 cases in China due to foreigners arriving for the Games, and strongly urged participants to get vaccination boosters due to the spread of the Omicron variant.

Officials also sought to alleviate concerns about health care for participants prompted by COVID-19 as well as an accident last month in a luge training session in Beijing when a Polish slider suffered a leg injury.

The Games, set to run from February 4 to February 20, will take place with all athletes and related personnel and staff in a “closed loop” in order to contain the spread of the virus in China, which has among the strictest COVID curbs in the world and has largely managed to contain local outbreaks.

“A large number of people from different countries and regions will come to China and the flow of people will increase. Consequently, a certain number of positive cases will become a high probability event,” Han Zirong, vice president and secretary-general of the Beijing organizing committee, said.

“Vaccine is a key measure to reduce the risk of virus spreading and to ensure the safety of the Games,” said Han. “We strongly suggest that all the Olympic-related participants take booster shots for the COVID-19 vaccine.”

China will not allow overseas spectators at the Games. It has reported four Omicron infections from people coming from overseas.

The fast spread of Omicron in North America led the National Hockey League to announce on Wednesday that its players will not participate in Beijing, depriving the Games of the star power of the sport’s biggest names.

Officials gave a detailed breakdown of medical personnel and facilities available to handle COVID cases, sports injuries and general medical care and expressed confidence the Games can proceed despite the highly infectious Omicron variant.

For the safety of the Olympic-related personnel and the city, a special “closed-loop” system will be implemented. The closed-loop system allows fully vaccinated Olympic-related personnel to enter China without undergoing a compulsory 21-day quarantine.

“We keep paying attention to the potential influence of Games, especially on the cities,” said Huang Chun, deputy director general of the Pandemic Prevention and Control Office at the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee. “We will do our best to strictly follow the ‘closed-loop’ policy.”

“We firmly believe these COVID prevention measures can reduce the risk of infection spreading, and can ensure the health of the athletes and other games personnel,” said Huang Chun, another official with the organizing committee.

Besides designating 18 hospitals for Olympics personnel, Beijing is building two clinics of at least 1,500-sqm each which will be open 24 hours and staffed by English-trained doctors, officials said.

Polish slider Mateusz Sochowicz hit a closed barrier during a training session on Beijing’s Olympic track. Noting criticism that emergency help had been slow, Han said that was because the athlete’s team doctor had to make an assessment first before first-aid personnel could provide assistance.

The venues will have 74 ambulances and 1,140 on-site medical personnel, including an orthopedic specialist at every site and equipment for CT dental scans at ice hockey venues.


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