Less than half a year is left before the Winter Olympics in Beijing: the Games will be held from 4 to 20 February. The New York Times writes about the unprecedented precautions that the organizers of the Games intend to take. The challenge is not to repeat the history of Tokyo, where, despite all efforts, the covid still infiltrated.
After it became clear that the anti-epidemic measures taken by the Japanese were insufficient, the organizers of the Beijing Games announced that all 39 Olympic venues would be renovated. The alterations include additional partitions and new toilets. The aim of the changes is to ensure that athletes have little or no contact with judges, spectators or journalists, who will also be separated from each other. The likelihood of cross-infection should be minimized.
Since the Chinese authorities managed to bring the virus under control with the strictest containment measures last year following the outbreak, the country has adopted a zero-tolerance policy for covid. Then, in order to extinguish outbreaks in individual cities, the authorities almost completely closed external borders, blocked entire cities, mobilized huge numbers of people to test and track the spread of the infection.
In Tokyo, they also tried to apply the idea of the Olympic "bubble": foreign spectators were banned from entering, the athletes were accommodated in separate hotels, and they were taken to the facilities in buses. However, as it turned out in the process, the participants and spectators did not take too much precautions. As a result, more than 400 cases of infection were recorded during the Games, two-thirds of the cases were residents of Japan, who were allowed to travel from home to the Olympic bubble.
In China, the approach promises to be stricter. During the Games, 1.4 billion local residents will be fenced off from all athletes, judges, guides, journalists and all other participants in the Olympics. When the competition is over, foreign participants will be required to leave China immediately, and local ones will spend several weeks of complete isolation in state quarantine centers, where they will be repeatedly tested before being allowed to return home. It is possible that vaccination will be required to participate in the Games, it is also possible that arrivals will have a small quarantine, but so far this has not been reported.
Here are a few more preventive measures that have already been announced. Journalists will interview athletes through a plastic partition, with microphones equipped with protective sponges that will be changed after each interview.
The number of people admitted to the opening and closing ceremonies will be strictly limited. Japan did not admit foreign spectators, but allowed 42,000 accredited participants to attend. Beijing has not yet announced its position with regard to foreign viewers, but said that a maximum of 30,000 people with accreditation will be admitted to the Games. Hotels, according to Chinese medical experts, are poorly suited as quarantine facilities. Therefore, most likely, for these purposes, if necessary, prefabricated stackable metal containers will be erected for individual quarantine. This idea showed itself well at the beginning of the year, during an outbreak in Shijiazhuang, where 2,000 of these containers were built.
To combat the virus, China is using technologies such as a robot that takes tests for covid. According to the local People's Daily newspaper, this invention by Wuhan engineers makes people "feel more comfortable while taking the test." It is not known whether such a robot will wield tampons in the throats of the Olympiad participants. However, it was announced that a different local technology will be used at the Games - thermometer-plasters that stick to the skin of the armpits. In the spring, at a stadium in Beijing, this know-how was tested among 600 people, one was diagnosed with a fever, and the stadium was immediately taken under control until a negative PCR test result came.
According to the participants in the preparations for the Games, who wished to remain anonymous, the authorities will consider the Games successful if they manage to unite the entire nation and strengthen its image in the eyes of the world, without provoking outbreaks of covid. The main task is the health and safety of the nation.