01/11/2022, 13.45
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Omicron on Beijing's doorstep: Winter Olympics at risk

by Li Qiang

Outbreak in Tianjin: danger of contagion from numerous commuters. Cases also in Guangdong, Shaanxi and Henan. With "zero Covid" strategy positive athletes will not be able to compete. Staff of the Olympic facilities and the Police isolated. Tourist resorts hosting ski competitions closed.


Beijing (AsiaNews) - Covid-19 is threatening the Winter Olympics in China. Several cases of the Omicron variant have been discovered on the outskirts of the capital, which will host the Games from February 4.

Due to the government's "zero Covid" strategy,192 cases have led to 20 million Chinese in lockdown. These are the infections ascertained last night by health authorities across the country. At least 110 are domestic infections, 87 located in three cities in Henan, central China.

Xi'an (Shaanxi), Yuzhou and Anyang in Henan are under total lockdown. The outbreak of the Omicron variant in Anyang is said to be linked to one that broke out in Tianjin, a major port just over 100 km from Beijing. As explained by the governmental (and nationalist) Global Times, the infections in the port center of 14 million inhabitants represent a direct danger for the capital, given the large number of commuters between the two cities.

Health authorities have also found eight cases in Shenzhen (Guangdong) in recent days. The technology hub in southern China is now under partial lockdown, with the entire population (12.5 million) undergoing mandatory testing. Omicron cases have also occurred in nearby Guangzhou.

With the Lunar New Year vacation approaching on February 1, national health bodies are ruling out possible relaxation of protocols. The government's strict anti-Covid policy seems to prevent intense outbreaks of contagion, but it risks bringing the country to a standstill, with damage also to the Olympic Games.

Thousands of athletes from all over the world are arriving in Beijing: if found positive they will not be able to compete, unless they obtain an ad hoc exemption from the Chinese authorities. The same goes for the staff employed in the Olympic facilities and for the spectators.

The capital city is now isolated in a "bubble": staff involved in the events and the police must carry out daily coronavirus tests. Spectators from abroad are not allowed, while the Chinese public will be able to watch the competitions without shouting or cheering for the athletes.

The facilities for ski and snowboard competitions are located in Yanqing, 75 km from the center of the capital, and in Zhangjiakou (Hebei). In the latter area all major ski and tourist resorts must remain closed until March 30, to the detriment of the local economy.

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