Omicron Deepens Uncertainty Surrounding Beijing Olympics
With the opening of the Winter Games three weeks away, officials in China are on high alert amid coronavirus outbreaks around the country.
Winter Olympics participants will be kept inside a “closed-loop” bubble. But a surge in infections in China even before their arrival points to the challenge Chinese organizers face in the era of Omicron.Credit…Thomas Peter/Reuters
The Winter Olympics are three weeks away, but tickets have yet to go on sale. Airlines are shifting schedules, creating travel confusion. Now, a spate of coronavirus outbreaks around China — including some locally transmitted cases of the fast-spreading Omicron variant — is adding to the uncertainty ahead of the Games in Beijing.
As of Wednesday, more than 20 million people remained confined to their homes in at least five cities around China. Especially worrying for officials has been a recent flare-up in Tianjin, a port city just 70 miles from Beijing that Chinese state media have previously likened to a “moat” protecting the country’s capital.
Officials have yet to determine the source of the Tianjin outbreak that infected 137 people, including at least two with the Omicron variant. One local health official said that the virus appeared to have been spreading in the community “for some time.” On Wednesday, officials in Tianjin ordered a second round of mass testing of all 14 million residents.
The surge in infections even before the arrival of thousands of athletes, journalists and officials underscores the challenge Chinese organizers face in trying to hold the Games while sticking to Beijing’s “zero Covid” standards. The country is one of the few left in the world that chases the elimination of the virus, despite the harsh measures needed and the cost imposed on the economy and people’s lives.