China acknowledged on Tuesday that the new Omicron variant would mean additional difficulties for the hosting of the Beijing Winter Olympics (February 4 to 20), but reaffirmed its confidence in the success of the event.
“This will certainly bring some challenges in terms of fighting the epidemic,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, conceded at a press conference.
“But China has experience in this area, and I am fully convinced that the Winter Olympics will go smoothly and as planned,” he said.
China has largely controlled the epidemic on its soil thanks to draconian measures: very strong limitation of international flights, compulsory quarantine on arrival, massive screenings or even isolation of contact cases, recorded thanks to travel tracking applications.
Life largely returned to its normal course in the spring of last year. But the country is still grappling with the appearance of small sporadic outbreaks.
In the context where the Chinese borders have been practically closed since March 2020, the Beijing Games will take place in a health bubble from which the some 2,900 expected athletes will not be able to leave, and without foreign spectators. Participants must either be vaccinated or undergo a 21-day quarantine upon arrival. All will be screened daily.
“Many options” under study
“The tests before departure, the vaccination policy”, the strict bubble and on-site screening “are all essential elements that will allow the Games to take place in complete safety,” the International Olympic Committee promised Tuesday to AFP. The second version of the manuals (” playbooks “) Bringing together all the health measures is expected” at the beginning of December “, according to the Committee, and its content could still be” adapted “according to the evolution of the pandemic.
“Regarding the Omicron variant, China has done the right thing in terms of technological preparation,” said Tuesday at a separate press conference Xu Wenbo, specialist in viral diseases from the Chinese Center for the Prevention and Control of diseases.
“We have many options that have been launched, with inactivated vaccines, recombinant protein vaccines and viral vector vaccines that are in the early stages of research. “
China has reported in recent weeks only a few dozen new daily cases of COVID-19. The Omicron variant has not yet been detected in the country, except in the autonomous territory of Hong Kong.