COVID cases within ‘controllable range’ at 2022 Winter Olympics

Winter Olympics COVID
REUTERS/David W Cerny

The COVID-19 situation at the Beijing Winter Olympics is within the “expected controllable range” despite increasing positive cases being detected, a senior official at China’s Olympics Pandemic Prevention and Control Office said on Tuesday.

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Organising Committee has reported 200 COVID cases since Jan. 23 among airport arrivals and those in the Games “closed-loop” bubble that separates all event personnel, including athletes, from the public.

“As more people are entering China the imported COVID-19 cases are increasing,” Huang Chun, deputy director-general of the committee’s Pandemic Prevention and Control Office, told a news briefing.

Huang said rising cases were also a result of more effective and accurate COVID detection techniques by customs.

Organizers reported 24 new COVID cases among Games-related personnel on Jan. 31, of which 16 were athletes.

Many athletes have been ruled out of the Feb. 4-20 Games after testing positive on arrival at the airport while others who are asymptomatic are isolating.

Three of the 414 members of the Canadian delegation in Beijing were impacted by China’s COVID-19 protocols over their ability to fulfill their roles at the Games, the Canadian Olympic Committee said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Part of our strategy was to arrive early to allow time for confirmation testing and, if necessary, the Medical Expert Panel process to unfold,” it said.

One of the positive cases is an athlete, although the Canadian committee did not disclose the name for privacy reasons.

“Getting to the Olympics is never easy and this time, as a new mom, it has been the most challenging,” Elana Meyers Taylor, a three-time Olympic medalist in bobsled, wrote on social media from her isolation hotel.

China credits the strict COVID control measures, including frequent nucleic acid testings, for helping prevent clustered cases inside the closed-loop.

“(The COVID-19 situation) is generally within our expected controllable range. So the Games participants, including athletes, and Chinese public do not have to worry,” said Huang.

He said Olympics organizers were not considering any major changes to COVID control policies at the Games.