Health

COVID cases mount as athletes, personnel arrive in Beijing

The tally
from the weekend showed 37 new cases on Sunday, and 34 on Saturday, with most
testing positive after arrival at the airport, Games organisers said on Monday.

Russian
biathlete Valeria Vasnetsova said her own Olympic ambitions were over after
testing positive twice following her arrival in Beijing, one of three Russian
positive tests announced on Monday.

“Unfortunately,
my Olympic dream will remain just a dream,” Vasnetsova wrote on social
media. “Maybe one day I will find the strength to rise again but it will
be a completely different story.”

Eight
athletes or team officials were among 28 people who had tested positive on
arrival at the airport on Sunday.

International
Olympic Committee member Emma Terho, who heads the IOC’s athletes commission,
also tested positive and said she has been in isolation since the weekend.

“Even
though this is not the start I envisaged, I was happy to see the protocols that
Beijing 2022 has put in place are working well,” Terho, a retired Finnish
ice hockey player, said on social media.

The cases
have set off alarm bells among athletes concerned their competition could be
over before it even starts after having prepared meticulously for years.

“You’re
like just so stressed about making sure you’re as safe as you can be,”
American luger Chris Mazdzer said. “Yet at the same time, there’s no way
to be 100 percent safe.

“There
have been a lot of athletes that are testing positive right now and it’s scary
because you put in four years since the last Games and f or all of that to go
to waste in the last week, last couple of days, it would be a tragedy,” he
told reporters.

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Some 3,000
athletes, along with coaches, officials, federation delegates and media are
expected for the Feb 4-20 Games.

The
“closed loop” will allow them to move between w accommodation and
Olympic venues on official transport but they are not allowed out to move
freely in public.

ZERO-TOLERANCE

In contrast
to many countries seeking to live with COVID-19, China has isolated itself with
a zero-tolerance policy, cancelling nearly all international flights.

An opinion
piece in the People’s Daily — the ruling Communist Party’s official newspaper
— praised the work done to prepare for the Games and battle the spread of the
virus.

“The
epidemic and control measures of the Beijing Winter Olympics are the epitome of
China’s successful experience in fighting the epidemic, and are also a focused
demonstration of China’s spirit and China’s strength,” it said.

Athletes
have also been testing positive prior to their arrival in Beijing, with the
world’s leading women’s ski jumper, Marita Kramer of Austria, rescheduling her
departure in an effort to get healthy in time for her competition after testing
positive in Germany.

Russian
skeleton racers, Olympic silver medallist Nikita Tregubov and Vladislav
Semyonov, will miss the Games after testing positive before setting off.

There was,
however, good news for the Australian curling team after Tahli Gill returned
two negative tests following an initial positive in the Chinese capital on Sunday.

Gill and
team mate Dean Hewitt had been in isolation for two days.

“We
have treated this time as a rest day and a time to really focus on our Olympic
goals,” the pair said in a statement.

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