Can China’s extreme anti-coronavirus measures ensure a COVID-free Beijing Winter Olympics?

Can China's extreme anti-coronavirus measures ensure a COVID-free Beijing Winter Olympics?

All the residents of Beijing’s Fengtai district lined up in the cold for mandatory COVID-19 tests this weekend. The mass-testing was imposed on the area after just 31 coronavirus cases were reported locally — but also as the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics loomed just 10 days away.

As CBS News Asia correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports, elsewhere in China, strict lockdowns that had affected millions of people have been lifted as the number of cases declined.

But in Beijing, a city official told reporters that citizens “must go all-out… to break the chain of infection in the current outbreak as fast as possible.”

Smaller-scale testing programs, like the one in Fengtai but more focused, are going on across the sprawling Chinese capital city.

The overwhelming priority for China‘s government is to stage an Olympic spectacle — mainly for TV — that remains virus-free.

Millions locked down in China


The venues are ready. There’s even been fresh snow in some of the alpine locations. But to minimize any chance of COVID-19 outbreaks, local people aren’t allowed to buy tickets. Instead, seats will be filled with specially-screened groups, chosen from inside China, by the Chinese government.

Meanwhile, Olympic athletes, coaches and officials have started arriving from outside the country. They’re tested at the airport and then they immediately enter what’s meant to be a COVID-free bubble.

Within that so-called “closed loop,” every athlete and Olympic team member will be confined to fenced-off areas. They will ride special buses between their hotels and the sports venues.

A health worker collects swab samples to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus from a participant of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games in the parking lot of a hotel in Beijing, January 25, 2022.


Already, Chinese authorities say they’ve picked up 78 COVID cases among the travelers arriving for the Winter Games, and the influx has only just begun. Anyone who tests positive must go into government supervised isolation.

Chinese authorities are so hyper-alert about the possibility of coronavirus outbreaks marring the Olympics that now, anyone who goes to a drugstore to buy cough or cold medication, or even painkillers or fever reducers, is automatically flagged for a mandatory COVID test.

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