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China aim for ‘Zero COVID’ Winter Olympics

Athletes will need to be vaccinated — or face a long quarantine — take tests daily and wear masks when not competing or training.

Clapping is OK to cheer on teammates, but not chanting.

Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be sent into isolation and unable to compete until cleared for discharge.

Welcome to the Beijing Olympics, where strict containment measures will aim to create a virus-proof “bubble” for thousands of international visitors at a time when omicron is fueling infections globally.

The prevention protocols will be similar to those at the Tokyo Games this summer, but much tighter.

That won’t be a stretch in Beijing, with China having maintained a “Zero COVID” policy since early in the pandemic.

Still, China’s ability to stick to its zero-tolerance approach nationally is already being tested by the highly transmissible omicron variant, which is more contagious than earlier variants of the virus and better able to evade protection from vaccines.

With just weeks to go before the February 4 start of the Games, more than 20 million people in six cities are under lockdown after recent outbreaks.

Athletes and other participants including team staff and media need to be fully vaccinated to be allowed in the designated Olympic areas without completing a 21-day quarantine.

Yet the threat of being sidelined by a positive test is adding to the pressure for athletes.

American mogul skier Hannah Soar said she’s avoiding contact with people indoors and behaving as if everyone has the virus: “We’re basically at the point of acting like it’s March 2020.”

Spectators from overseas won’t be allowed. As for local fans, Beijing organisers say they’re finalising rules for their attendance.

It’s not clear how the recent outbreaks around China will factor into the decisions.

Even if some fans are allowed in Beijing, their presence will be muted.

Everyone is being asked to clap instead of shouting or singing, as had been the plan in Tokyo.

Despite the omicron-fuelled surge in cases across the world, including China, Games organisers may still be able to pull off the Olympics without as much disruption as some fear.

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