(Bloomberg) — Chinese Olympic organizers have said they will not alter their preparations for the Winter Olympics, which are due to start about three more weeks later, despite the fact that the omicron variant is spreading across the country.
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“Unless there are large-scale cases in the competition areas, we do not plan to adjust the preventive measures against COVID-19 yet,” said Huang Chun, a senior official in charge of anti-virus with the event’s organizing committee. At a press conference held in Beijing on Tuesday.
That could change if the situation warranted, Huang said, adding that Olympic organizers will stick to “strict implementation” of their guidelines to keep athletes and others free of the virus.
The contagious omicron appeared over the weekend in Tianjin, the coastal city bordering Beijing and Hebei Province, where the games will be held from February 4-20. China is also battling with a new epicenter of the virus in Henan Province, where 5 million residents of the city of Anyang were quarantined after two people were reported to have contracted omicron. The lockdown of the central city of Xi’an, which has a population of 13 million, is nearing its fourth week.
Last week, China announced it was ready to host the games, after President Xi Jinping visited sites such as the National Speed Skating Oval. The nation has pledged to host “simple, safe and wonderful” games, in contrast to the spectacle of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
This attempt to lower expectations is largely due to China’s inability to remove COVID-19 from its borders despite strict quarantine regulations for incoming travelers and a policy of mass tracking, testing, and lockdowns to stem breakouts.
The Winter Olympics also face complications from the US-led diplomatic boycott of what Washington calls “crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses” by China, charges Beijing vehemently denies.
Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom joined the protest, and Japan indicated that it would not send a government representative, although it avoided the term “diplomatic boycott”.
The Winter Olympics in China will be held inside a bubble – which local authorities call a “closed cycle” – and officials are eager to see that the virus does not pass. In a sign of their stress, China’s Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday that Beijing’s traffic police had asked its residents to avoid contact with official Olympic Games vehicles.
Olympics organizers have not announced detailed regulations on how local residents can attend the events, leading netizens in the Asian country to speculate that China’s zero-tolerance strategy to contain the coronavirus will mean they will not. made to the public.
At their briefing on Tuesday, organizers sidestepped a question about ticket policies, noting that regulations for spectators were still being drafted.
China says Omicron outbreak has not affected Olympic plans yet
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