Winter Olympics: Beijing ‘strongly advises’ Olympians to get COVID booster

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Beijing Winter Olympics organisers “strongly suggest” that athletes from abroad should receive COVID-19 booster shots before participating in the games as the Omicron variant takes hold across the world.

Huang Chun, the deputy director of the organising committee’s pandemic prevention office, said Thursday that China and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have reached a consensus to call for booster shots for athletes attending the Winter Games given the rampant spread of the new variant.

“Many countries have positively responded to that and given booster shots to their athletes,” Huang added.

During the games, all athletes, staff, and journalists will be confined to bubbles for the duration of the competition, which will take place at three far-flung locations in downtown Beijing, its suburb of Yanqing, and neighboring Hebei province.

China maintains some of the world’s strictest anti-virus travel restrictions.

It has said it will not allow overseas spectators at the games and has not announced any plans on how and when it will sell tickets to its domestic audiences.

“Organisers are still ‘studying and formulating’ the ticketing policy and COVID-19 measures for domestic spectators,” noted the committee’s vice president Han Zirong.

The organisers also “regret” the decision by the National Hockey League (NHL) not to send players to the Beijing Winter games.

The NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement on Wednesday, making official what seemed inevitable in recent days when a rash of positive test results caused several teams to shut down and the list of postponed games ballooned to 50.

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The league will use the previously scheduled February 6, 2022, Olympic break to make up those games and others that need to be rescheduled.

However, Huang said that he was “convinced” that China’s coronavirus prevention measures will “effectively reduce the risk of transmission”, citing enforcement of the measures over 13 test matches proved effective.

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