Sports

Three athletes positive for COVID-19 inside Beijing Olympic bubble


FILE PHOTO: The Chinese and Olympic flags flutter at the headquarters of the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, China November 12, 2021.

FILE PHOTO: The Chinese and Olympic flags flutter at the headquarters of the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, China November 12, 2021. REUTERS/Thomas Suen

Three athletes attending training events for the Beijing Winter Olympics have tested positive for COVID-19, Chinese officials said Thursday, with the country on high alert against the coronavirus ahead of the Games.

Beijing 2022 organizers have left nothing to chance with the games set to start in February, restricting entry to the capital and insisting on daily virus tests for thousands of athletes who will be kept within a “closed-loop” bubble.

One of the athletes, a foreign luger, tested positive at the airport when entering the country and was sent to a quarantine hotel along with another infected teammate as they had no symptoms, officials said last week.

But a third person has now tested positive — another luger and a close contact of the earlier cases, Zhao Weidong, an Olympics organizing committee member, said on Thursday.

The latest patient is asymptomatic and has also been transferred to a quarantine facility for “medical observation,” Zhao said at a press conference.

Authorities are continuing to “test people, materials and the environment, as well as conducting health monitoring and disinfecting the environment,” Zhao added.

China is gearing up to tackle one of the largest challenges to its zero-COVID-19 strategy as thousands of athletes are expected to descend on Beijing for the games, which will be held from February 4 to 20.

City authorities this week imposed strict new rules on inbound travelers, requiring all visitors to Beijing to show a negative COVID-19 test result from the past 48 hours and cancelling flights from higher risk areas within the country.

China has kept its domestic case numbers far lower than in most countries, through mass testing, aggressive lockdowns and border controls that left some families separated and many unable to return to work from outside the country.

The Olympics will test the country’s ability to ward off the pandemic, with organizers promising nearly empty stadiums and banning spectators from outside China.

All participating athletes and venue staff must be vaccinated, while tens of thousands of workers in higher-risk industries across the city are being tested multiple times a week.

The Beijing Winter Games organizers have said the coronavirus is the biggest challenge in the lead-up.

The event is also facing boycott calls from international campaigners over human rights concerns in China’s Xinjiang region as well as in Hong Kong and Tibet.

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