China is locking millions in due to Covid. What will happen to Beijing Winter Olympics?
Ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics, China has implemented a mass lockdown due to the rapid spread of Covid-19. Will the Winter Olympics now take place?
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In a desperate attempt to maintain its zero Covid strategy, China has ordered millions of people to go into lockdown due to the spread of Covid. This comes at a time when Beijing is all set to host the Winter Olympics from February 4-20, and weeks before the Lunar New Year.
China’s national health commission reported 110 new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases on January 10. This includes 87 in Henan province, 13 in Shaanxi and 10 in Tianjin.
Illustration: Seemon, DailyO
Xi’an city in northern China is already in its third week of strict lockdown. In southern China, Shenzhen has launched a mass testing drive and implemented targeted lockdowns of a few housing compounds. Public and long distance transport, as well as flights from the US, have been limited or suspended across numerous Chinese cities.
During the first week of January 2022, one million people in the city of Yuzhou were put under stay-at-home orders.
WHAT PROMPTED THE LOCKDOWN: The cases in the Henan province, which include confirmed cases of Omicron, were the final straw for the government to put a lockdown in place. As a result, 5 million people in Anyang have gone into lockdown that begun on the night of January 10. Out of the 87 Henan cases, 58 have been detected in Anyang.
Covid-19 testing in China. Photo: Getty Images
Out of the 10 cases detected in Tianjin, 2 are positive for the Omicron variant, which has caused Tianjin (located 107 kilometers away from Beijing) to test its entire 14 million population. Genome sequencing has proved that the cases found in Henan are of the same trasmission link as Tianjin. CNN reported on January 10 that it is being believed that a university student who had travelled from Tianjin to Anyang on December 28 brought back the virus into Anyang.
WHAT NOW OF THE WINTER OLYMPICS: Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong said, "It is impossible for China to return cases to zero before the Winter Olympics, because local outbreaks are springing up one after another. The only thing Beijing can do is to learn from the experience of the Tokyo Summer Games and hold the Olympics while community transmission is going on in the country."
Huang Chun, an official with the Beijing Games organising committee, said on January 11, "Despite Omicron concerns, Beijing will not adjust its Covid-19 prevention measures for the Winter Olympics unless there are many cases inside the 'closed-loop'."
Activated in January 2022, the "closed-loop" bubble is a buuble where participants only leave if they are exiting the country or undergo quarantine. At the Beijing Winter Olympics, as during the Tokyo Olympics, no international spectators will be allowed, and local attendance is expected to be limited.
The South China Morning Post reported January 10 that Beijing authorities have asked residents of the Chinese capital to avoid all contact with Olympic vehicles and not even 'try to help after a road accident'.
Beijing's traffic management bureau clarified that 'residents who are involved in an accident with one of the Olympic vehicles ferrying athletes, coaches and officials should not ask drivers and passengers to get out but wait for “professionals” to arrive on the scene'.