The Olympics officially held its opening ceremony today, but there are already concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
In new testing data released by the Beijing Organizing Committee, more and more athletes and team organizers are testing positive for COVID-19, despite strict masking policies in place.
The Olympics Opening Hampered By COVID-19 Concerns
According to the Associated Press, 2.9 percent of athletes and team officials have tested positive for COVID-19. The Olympic stakeholders’ positivity percentage rate is a bit lower, at 0.66%. From Saturday, January 29, through Monday, January 31, the positivity rate for athletes and team officials was 40 percent higher than those who had just arrived at the Olympics.
On Monday, 379 athletes and team officials arrived in China for the start of the Winter Games, alongside 1,059 other stakeholders.
According to the Beijing Organizing Committee, “All Olympic-related personnel who entered China and Games staffs implement closed-loop management. They are completely separated from the outside society.”
Each person who arrives in China must be tested for COVID-19 and can only continue to Beijing once they provide a negative test result. Individuals are tested again at the Beijing airport and have to undergo daily screening tests to ensure the safety of competitors at the Olympic games.
What Happens If An Athlete Tests Positive For COVID-19?
According to Heathline, Olympic athletes may not be able to compete if they test positive for COVID-19. Although American athletes have been vaccinated, there is still the possibility to experience a breakthrough case. For example, bobsledder Josh Williamson tested positive for COVID-19 only four days before he was supposed to leave for Beijing. Because the bobsledding competition is held the last week of the Olympics, Williamson hopes that he will still be able to compete.
According to the International Olympic Committee, “While participants need to have at least two negative pre-departure tests within 96 and 72 hours prior to their departure, they will immediately be tested upon arrival. Games participants are asked to take a PCR test at the airport. Trained customs staff will take an oropharyngeal (throat) and a nasopharyngeal (nose) swab sample, which will be combined for analysis.”
If an athlete tests positive and has no symptoms, they will be discharged from isolation once they have two consecutive PCR test results that are taken 24 hours apart.
According to Dr. Brian Mcloskey, chair of the Beijing 2022 Medical Expert panel, “We have always said the target is not zero cases; the target is zero spread… The challenge is to make sure we pick those up very quickly and that they do not cause a spreading event.”
Athletes who test positive and are less than 30 days from recovery, like Williamson, have to follow a “four test” rule. This rule required that athletes test negative four times before leaving. Twice within 96 hours, with the tests at least 24 hours apart, and within 72 hours of departure. They must also test twice in tests taken at least 24 hours apart after recovery.
The Olympic Committee is going by the PCR test of detection, even though the PCR test can still detect the virus weeks after infection, which may make it difficult for athletes to compete if they test positive but are no longer symptomatic.
If an athlete tests positive while they are already in Beijing, they will be tested a second time to confirm their results. From there, they will not be allowed to participate and will have to be isolated in quarantine.
If an athlete has “close contact” (spending 15 minutes or more) with an infected individual, they may still train and compete but will have to quarantine in a single room and eat alone. These athletes will be tested every 12 hours for 7 days, as well as 6 hours before any competition, to contain the spread of the virus.
Why Are The Olympics Being Boycotted?
“We didn’t issue warnings” U.S. Olympic leadership says athletes are free to speak out in Beijing, but should not feel burdened by the US-led diplomatic boycott. pic.twitter.com/BUNXRn9Ahx
— The Associated Press (@AP) February 4, 2022
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, human rights groups have encouraged the boycott of the Winter Olympics due to alleged human rights abuses by the Chinese government.
Several countries, including the United States, have accused China of committing genocide against the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region. China has denied these allegations.
Human rights groups have also called out the crackdown of personal freedoms in areas like Hong Kong. The disappearance of Chinese tennis star, Peng Shuai, from public view, has also caused widespread concern.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which organizes and oversees the games, has seemingly tried to avoid the controversy by stating that they maintain a “neutral” position on political issues.
Not a pretty picture for China from India ahead of the opening ceremony of Beijing Winter Olympics. All major newspapers headline India’s diplomatic boycott of the controversial games. pic.twitter.com/V9wMGziFqN
— Sidhant Sibal (@sidhant) February 4, 2022