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COVID-19 cases in Winter Olympics bubble rise to 106 as Beijing imposes stringent regulations ahead of the opening

Ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games opening on 4th February 4, Beijing has imposed extreme restrictions on movement to protect the Olympic bubble as China’s top leadership vowed to deliver a coronavirus-safe Winter Games. Athletes and others participating in the Games are being completely isolated from the general public to try to avoid cross-infection.

Till yesterday, the number of Covid-19 cases in the Olympic bubble had risen to 106 among the 3,695 who had arrived. This comes as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Monday eased the PCR test threshold for Covid-19 positive cases lowering the CT value cut-off from 40 to 35 and also modified the definition of close contacts. Some athletes have complained about Beijing’s strict zero-case bubble.

Despite the decline in official numbers of COVID cases in Beijing, local authorities continued to describe the war against Covid-19 as “complicated and severe”. Beijing authorities on Wednesday said there had not been any Omicron case locally for three days in a row. Since the latest outbreak from January 15, Beijing has reported a total of six Omicron cases and 74 of the Delta variant.

Local cases are counted separately from the Olympic tallies. City authorities have also ramped up tracing of the close contacts and 14 days travel trail of any confirmed patient leading to testing of millions in various residential societies, workplaces etc. Travel links between Beijing and much of the rest of the country are suspended. The latest requirements call for testing of anyone purchasing cough, fever or cold medications.

Meanwhile, China on Wednesday expressed serious concern and dissatisfaction with the US over its reported move of allowing American diplomats and their families to leave the country to avoid Beijing’s stringent anti-pandemic measures, saying that logic behind the US’ decision is confusing and hardly justifiable and it will only expose US staff to “much greater risks” of infection.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China’s anti-virus regulations were in line with international treaties governing the treatment of diplomatic personnel and that the nation was “undoubtedly the safest country in the world at the moment.” Local media reported that the US move was possibly in response to concerns raised by its diplomats in China who are wary of ever-changing regulations under China’s stringent zero COVID-19 policy

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