What Happens if an Athlete Tests Positive at the Beijing Olympics

Changing into an Olympian is an extended and unpredictable journey rife with hurdles. However these arriving in Beijing for the 2022 Winter Video games face yet one more daunting problem: COVID-19.

Even earlier than the Video games start on Feb. 4, the pandemic is taking its toll. Olympic hopefuls who take a look at constructive days earlier than their departure, akin to Russian determine skater Mikhail Kolyada, are withdrawing from the competitors, since they received’t be capable of fulfill the requirement of testing unfavorable twice earlier than their flights.

Hanging over each athlete arriving at Beijing Worldwide Airport is the specter of testing constructive, starting with a deep nasopharyngeal swab on the airport. All athletes are required to be vaccinated, or obtain a medical exemption and adjust to a 21-day quarantine if they aren’t. In addition they have to check unfavorable twice earlier than their flight—not less than 96 and 72 hours earlier than boarding. Nonetheless, with the Omicron variant so widespread and adept at sparking new infections, even among the many vaccinated, breakthrough infections in people who find themselves immunized are potential, though not quite common. To date, 54 athletes and staff officers have examined constructive after arriving in Beijing, and that quantity is anticipated to rise regardless of the cautious measures the Chinese language authorities is taking as greater than 3,000 athletes, coaches, and their assist employees fly in for the Video games.
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“You’re like simply so careworn about ensuring you’re as protected as you might be, but on the similar time, there’s no option to be 100% protected,” U.S. luger Chris Mazdzer instructed reporters.

Russian biathlete Valeria Vasnetsova examined constructive on the airport, and once more with a confirmatory take a look at, which implies she received’t be capable of compete, as she revealed on her social media account. “Sadly my Olympic dream will stay only a dream” she mentioned.

Beijing Olympic and well being officers have created a closed-loop system designed to stick to the Chinese language authorities’s dynamic zero-COVID coverage, which depends on common testing to detect infections and inflexible isolation necessities to stop unfold of circumstances. So as to compete, athletes should comply with protocols for getting into the loop and stay inside it. These guidelines could turn out to be extra stringent if circumstances begin to mount, or if well being officers turn out to be involved about outbreaks within the Olympic “bubble.”

That begins with the pre-departure testing, and with particular chartered flights into Beijing. These flights have been authorised by the Chinese language authorities and depart from designated hub cities all over the world, together with Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Paris. The flights solely carry Olympics-related passengers, and characterize the primary section of the closed loop. As soon as contained in the loop, athletes can solely use devoted Olympic transport. (Bus drivers and employees on devoted high-speed prepare automobiles that join town to mountain occasions can even adhere to the strict testing and isolation insurance policies.)

If athletes take a look at constructive on the airport, they need to take an extra take a look at to substantiate the end result. Even when that second take a look at is unfavorable, they should take a 3rd; exams are scheduled every day at 7 a.m. or 7 p.m. Till these outcomes can be found, the athlete should stay of their assigned room within the Olympic Village, and, if they’ve a roommate, each ought to hold their masks on and distance from one another. If the third take a look at is unfavorable, the athlete is allowed to go away the room and prepare and compete as deliberate.

If the extra take a look at is constructive, nonetheless, and the athlete doesn’t have any signs, they need to transfer to an isolation lodge—a separate facility designated by Beijing officers to deal with people who find themselves constructive however aren’t symptomatic. If the athlete has signs—fever, cough, or the rest—then that athlete is transferred to a hospital to recieve medical consideration. Athletes can refuse to be admitted to the hospital if their signs aren’t extreme, however they need to signal a waiver taking duty for his or her well being and stay within the isolation lodge.

Athletes within the isolation facility get every day PCR exams, temperature checks, and every other medical consideration they want. So as to depart isolation, they should have two unfavorable PCR exams not less than 24 hours aside and show no signs of COVID-19. They will then return to coaching and competitors, although it usually takes a number of days to check unfavorable after an infection, and a few athletes could have missed their occasions.

There’s one other COVID-19 fear looming over the athletes. Even when they keep unfavorable, they might be recognized as an in depth contact of somebody who examined constructive. In keeping with the Olympic playbook, which means anybody who has not less than quarter-hour of maskless contact with somebody who exams constructive. On the airplane, an in depth contact is somebody sitting in the identical row or as much as two rows in entrance of or behind an contaminated individual. An in depth contact may also be somebody who interacted with an contaminated individual for quarter-hour or extra with out a high-quality face masks (KN95, N95, or FFP2).

Athletes recognized as an in depth contact can proceed to coach and compete, bu tmust take additional steps for 14 days: quarantine in a single room, prepare for devoted Olympic automobiles through which they’re the one passenger, eat alone both within the room or at a separate desk in eating amenities, put on a masks besides when consuming or coaching, and keep away from interacting with others. Most significantly, if they will’t prepare indoors, and their nationwide Olympic federation should make preparations to carry health or coaching tools to the athlete’s room, or arrange separate coaching amenities and instances. The athletes additionally must get examined and have their temperature taken twice a day by medical personnel who come to their room, and so they’re required to reply questions on their well being standing. Six hours earlier than they compete, they need to take a PCR take a look at, which might be timed with their different exams to keep away from getting examined greater than twice a day.

Already, Beijing officers have been criticized for translating the nation’s zero-COVID technique to the Olympics. Below strain for adopting a PCR take a look at threshold that was extra stringent than World Well being Group requirements—which meant folks would possibly take a look at constructive beneath the Chinese language requirements however not by different, internationally accepted ones—Beijing Olympic officers have loosened the standards by which individuals would take a look at constructive.

Nonetheless, whereas athletes and nationwide delegations assist obligatory necessities for preserving the Olympics protected from COVID-19, the virus hangs over the Video games like a gallows, able to terminate long-held goals and upend the rostrum if favorites can’t compete. “All of the partying shall be afterwards,” French ice dancer Guillaume Cizeron and gold medal favourite in Beijing instructed Rolling Stone. “Till then, we’re attempting to not take a look at constructive.”


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