Prior to the Beijing Winter Olympics, the international community was doubtful if China could maintain its zero infection policy for the games, With over 10,000 athletes, journalists, and officials from around the world have descended on the grounds, the possibility of carriers entering the sports village was very high.
True enough the early day say cases propping up with athletes and officials reporting infection and were subsequently quarantined, cases continue to rise and questions were raised if China could indeed host the event.
However, the event progressed albeit holding a safe game represented a daunting challenge for the organisers. But China stuck to its guns with stringent and effective COVID-19 countermeasures, the thus the games have proceeded smoothly so far with the risk of infections under control.
Over 10 days into the event, the number of positive cases reported inside the “closed loop” for the Winter Olympics has declined from a peak of 26 cases on February 2, two days before the Games opened.
There was only one positive case reported in the closed-loop in a 24-hour period by Monday midnight, the second least reported since the closed-loop system came into operation prior to the Winter Olympics. On February 13, no new COVID-19 cases were reported inside the closed-loop for the first time.
“The situation inside the closed-loop is safe and there is no sign of virus transmission, which can be said to have met our expectations,” Brian McCloskey, chief of the Beijing 2022 Medical Expert Panel, told a press briefing last week.
The 2022 Winter Olympics is unique as it is the first Winter Games held amidst an ongoing global pandemic. A range of strict protocols are in place to ensure the safety of competitors, officials, international media staff, and spectators, as well as all the personnel concerned.
The measures start at the airport, where athletes, coaches, and others go through entry procedures, including the first of daily COVID-19 tests.
The closed-loop system, which is being applied to all three competition zones in Beijing, Zhangjiakou, and Yanqing, is central to the organisers’ COVID-19 countermeasures. Hotels and sports venues are linked by special buses and trains to separate participants within the closed-loop from the general public and prevent coronavirus spread.
According to BOCOG, the overall cumulative total of positive COVID-19 cases for the Games-time period now stands at 433, while 1,453,939 coronavirus tests have been conducted so far.
Christophe Dubi, the Olympic Games Executive Director of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), spoke highly of China’s efforts to hold a virus-free Olympics.
“Really no effort is spared, no stone unturned to keep everybody safe. The degree of sophistication of the operation is something unprecedented. The job that has been done is absolutely remarkable,” said Dubi.
In a bid to reduce human interaction, robots are being used to safely deliver food at the canteen in the Main Media Center. Foods like noodles and burgers are also made by robots. Robots for disinfection, body temperature checks, and environment monitoring are also equipped at many venues.
Also, it helps that there were no spectators at the event as no tickets were sold!