China puts up Great ‘Bubble’ Wall to prevent COVID amid Winter Olympics
The United States and several other nations are staging a diplomatic boycott of the Games over human rights concerns relating to the treatment of Uyghurs in the region of Xinjiang

China puts up Great ‘Bubble’ Wall to prevent COVID amid Winter Olympics

With PPE-clad employees, stringent testing and isolation, and strict rules on visitor movements, Beijing is making sure there’s no outbreak

Less than a year after Japan braved the pandemic to hold the Olympics, China is hosting the Winter Olympics with its much-debated ‘Zero Covid’ strategy. This means that though thousands of sportspersons, Olympics officials, journalists and others have landed in China, a ‘bubble’ separates them from the public, as Beijing pulls out all stops to prevent a fresh outbreak.

The 2022 Beijing Winter Games began on February 4, and conclude on February 20.

The Japan experiment

It may be recalled that Japan deferred the 2020 Summer Games by a year and held it in 2021. Tokyo adopted a “Olympics at any cost” stance, which won it as many laurels as it did criticisms. All the events were held sans spectators, the testing was rigorous, and hundreds of athletes and officials who tested positive were sent back. Amidst all this, Japanese citizens protested in droves, demanding to know why the Games had to be held at all.

Also read: Indian puts diplomatic ban on Winter Olympics after Galwan soldier carries torch

China is now bending over backwards to stall any criticism. For instance, hotel and restaurant employees are not just masked, they’re in full hazmat suits with giant face shields, said a Reuters report. Beijing is making sure a ‘closed loop’ fully separates the visitors from the general public, the report added.

The food is served in tightly wrapped packages while hotels and other venues are frequently disinfected. All local volunteers and employees are in complete personal protective equipment (PPE). Athletes, their coaches and officials can take the official shuttle to the venues and back, but they’re not allowed to move out otherwise.

This apart, all the visitors — 4,500 athletes and around 20,000 local volunteers — are subjected to RT-PCR tests every day. On Saturday alone, 45 visitors tested positive. Of these, 26 were among new airport arrivals.

Quarantine hotels draw flak

Even as China is trying to prevent a big COVID outbreak to avoid global censure, its quarantine hotels have drawn much criticism from foreign athletes and officials. While in isolation, the visitors were provided with stale, inedible food, dingy rooms and sub-standard training equipment, said Fox News, quoting athletes.

Some of them complained that breakfast, lunch and dinner were served for five days at one go. These meals mostly consisted of plain pasta, fruit juice, no green vegetables and charred meat, they said on Twitter.

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