With the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics set to start in early February, plans are being drawn and redrawn constantly in light of an ever-changing global landscape. Chinese leaders as well as the Olympic committee and the WHO have provided input to safety protocols for both participants and spectators, but new COVID-19 outbreaks have spurred concern among the world.
Omicron variant forces new safety measures
With the wave of COVID-19 cases on the rise due to the Omicron variant, first found in Africa, the Olympic committee and Chinese officials have once again tightened restrictions surrounding the winter games.
China had already placed rules on spectators on the games, that they must be from China and no outsiders will be allowed in, but last week officials announced that all spectators will be asked to refrain from shouting and opt for simple clapping instead.
Staff that is working at the Olympic venues in Bejing will no longer be allowed to leave the grounds to return home to their families. Instead, they will spend their time inside the compound and will be mandated to quarantine for 10 days after the close of the games before returning home.
Rules for participating athletes at the games were also announced recently. Athletes are strongly discouraged from leaving the grounds of the Bejing games. In past years, part of the glamour of visiting an Olympic host country was to spend time exploring the area.
Athletes who now choose to tour China outside of the Olympic center will be asked to spend one week in quarantine as well as 10 days of isolation upon their return home.
COVID-19 has upended many events over the last two years so it was a surprise to many when China, with some of the strictest COVID-19 regulations in the world, agreed to continue with hosting the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
The Omicron variant is a less lethal, but more contagious, mutation of COVID-19. Scientists and epidemiologists agree that this will not be the last mutation which means that this probably will not be the last round of safety protocols put into place by Bejing.
As the virus mutates and science and data change, we should expect that the response to it will as well.