Mon, 17 Jan 2022

China's foreign ministry has responded to fears that the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics could be threatened by the Omicron variant.

The showpiece, which will see athletes from around the world head to China in February 2022, has already had to outlaw foreign fans because of the pandemic.

There were shockwaves on Monday when the organizers of the Winter Universiade, scheduled to take place in Switzerland in December, canceled the event because of travel and healthcare worries.

The World Health Organization has warned that the variant carries a "very high" risk and has warned of potentially "severe" results if Omicron drives "another major surge of Covid-19".

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has reacted by claiming that China's coronavirus expertise will protect the Games.

"As China has experience in preventing and controlling the coronavirus, I fully believe that China will be able to host the Winter Olympics as scheduled, smoothly and successfully," said Zhao, despite acknowledging that Omicron will "definitely pose some challenge" to their efforts.

Games organizers the IOC have driven efforts to ensure almost all athletes are vaccinated ahead of the Games, operating a "closed-loop" for participants while the spectacle takes place.

Vaccine producers Pfizer and BioNTech have pledged dose donations to athletes at the Games, and Chinese president Xi Jinping promised on Tuesday to provide a billion doses to Africa.

Xi spoke two days after a study by Peking University mathematicians warned that China could face more than 630,000 infections a day if it scrapped its zero-tolerance policies by removing travel restrictions.

About 90 percent of eligible people in mainland China have been double-vaccinated, finding themselves subject to some of the strictest rules in the world in a country estimated to be recording around 26 new infections each day.

In response to a Match TV request, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said that a playbook would ensure a "safe and secure" Games for "all competitors and the people of China."

"We draw on the experience of other international sporting events, including the successful Tokyo 2020 Games and the current Covid-19 containment policy in China," it said.

"The principles and responses to Covid-19 in the manual are based on the extensive work of an international working group in collaboration with scientific experts and organizations from around the world.

"Pre-departure testing, vaccination policies, a closed-loop management system and regular on-site testing are vital elements that will make the Games safe.

"Recent developments regarding Covid-19 highlight the importance of all the measures included in the manuals, which, if necessary, can be adapted to take into account any specific circumstances and ensure the safety of everyone in a changing context."

The IOC added that a second version of the playbook will be released in early December.

(RT.com)

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