Omicron and Covid-19 news: live updates


Credit…Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

ZHANGJIAKOU, China – Spectators at the Winter Olympics next February are expected to cheer but not shout for the athletes. Servers, cleaners and other support staff will not be allowed to leave Olympic venues to visit their families. And any Olympic participant leaving the surrounding area for the rest of China will have to spend at least a week in quarantine, followed by at least two weeks in home isolation.

As the Omicron variant spreads rapidly around the world, China is taking elaborate precautions to prevent the coronavirus from reaching its own population or Winter Games participants. Chinese authorities are also preparing the public for the inevitability of some infections at the Olympics, where everyone will undergo daily PCR tests.

“A number of positive cases will become a high probability event,” Han Zirong, secretary general of the Beijing Winter Games organizing committee, told reporters on Thursday.

China has banned foreign spectators from entering the country. It allows athletes, coaches, coaches, referees, journalists and a few other vaccinated foreigners to enter without undergoing the usual two weeks or more of quarantine followed by a week of home confinement.

The exemption, however, comes with a strict requirement that foreigners do not leave a “closed loop” of hotels and sports venues, connected by special buses and trains.

“We must never get out of the closed loop, let alone reach city level – this is our bottom line,” said Huang Chun, deputy director of the organizing committee’s epidemic prevention and control bureau. Olympic.

China has reported dozens of coronavirus cases per day this week. On Thursday, local authorities locked up Xi’an, a city of 13 million people. At least 242 cases have occurred there during an outbreak this month. Beijing has not disclosed how many involve the Omicron variant.

The country has mostly been successful in controlling the virus by quarantining hundreds of close contacts of infected people and, in some cases, contacts of contacts. But equally broad measures at the Olympics could make it difficult to hold the Games.

Some precautions are already visible at a ski resort in the mountains near Zhangjiakou, about 160 km northwest of Beijing, where nearly half of the Olympic events will be held. Thick, transparent floor-to-ceiling plastic sheeting separates bus drivers from their passengers.

At the station’s TGV station, visitors must provide proof of a negative PCR test within the previous 48 hours. Proof on a smartphone app is also required that the traveler has not visited any Chinese city in the previous two weeks that has had a recent infection.

For construction workers putting the finishing touches on sites, authorities are already performing nucleic acid tests once every three days, Jia Maoting, managing director of the Olympic Sports Construction and Development Company, told reporters during a visit to the Olympic ski jumping site.

Han, the secretary general of the Olympic organizing committee, warned that more measures could be added in the coming weeks. “It all depends on how the global and Chinese epidemic situation evolves,” he said, “especially on the infectivity of the new mutant strain, Omicron. “

Liu Yi and Li you contributed research.